Four Unite the Union-backed workers from the Port of Felixstowe are taking on the company which owns it. This comes after bosses sacked the workers, seemingly for their involvement in the strikes which brought the port to a near-standstill in 2022.
While their colleagues won a pay deal, the so-called ‘Felixstowe Four’ were fired. They’ve accused bosses of orchestrating a “witch hunt” to “bully” other workers. However, the Felixstowe Four are fighting back.
Felixstowe: striking workers win victory
As the Canary previously reported, workers at the Port of Felixstowe took industrial action in 2022. It was over pay and conditions at the docks:
Unite the Union says its operator, the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, gave staff a tiny 1.4% pay rise last year . This year , it’s only offering 5%. That’s around half the rate of inflation. That means bosses are giving workers an effective pay cut. So, workers voted by 92% to strike in August on an 81% turnout.
The trade union and its local reps organised walkouts in August and September 2022. The action worked, as by December the port’s owners, the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, and its parent company CK Hutchison Holdings, had given in. As BBC News reported, bosses agreed to a two-year pay increase:
broken down as a 7% increase for 2022 and an additional one off payment of £500, and then from January 1 2023 an 8.5% pay increase and a one off payment of £1,000.
While this was a good result for the Port of Felixstowe’s 2,500 workers, there was a catch.
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The Felixstowe Four
In what seems like a clear attempt to intimidate the workforce, bosses took action against four of Unite’s reps – ultimately firing them. As the East Anglian Daily Times (EADT) reported:
the four individuals are taking legal action against the company which could end in an employment tribunal.
Unite – which represents the group – is claiming they were unfairly dismissed and has launched a campaign to get the Felixstowe Four reinstated.
CK Hutchison Holdings declined to comment to the EADT. However, in a video, the workers – Jamie, Keith, Andy and Pete – accuse Port of Felixstowe bosses of a “witch hunt” against them. The men said the company is trying to “make examples” of the four and to “bully and threaten everybody else” who worked there. Andy said bosses’ actions were:
abuse for their gain… to bully the rest of the workforce into doing exactly what they want. They’ve tortured me enough, but more to the point they’ve tortured my family… I’ve worked all my life. I need to work to provide for my family.
Unite’s message to bosses is simple – reinstate the Felixstowe Four:
Unite is campaigning for the reinstatement of Jamie, Keith, Andy & Pete. 4 dockers, Unite reps, who were unfairly sacked.
— Reinstate the Felixstowe Four (@FelixstoweFour) March 14, 2023
An undercurrent of abuse at the port
CK Hutchison Holdings’ treatment of these four workers is a deeply worrying undercurrent at the port. Bosses firing workers on a whim, allegedly for organising strikes, is clearly designed to intimidate other employees into not taking action again in the future. Unite and the workers must fight this regressive action – because otherwise, it sets a dangerous precedent for the future.
You can send a message of support to the Felixstowe Four here.
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