Unite the Union has taken the fight for the so-called Felixstowe Four to the front door of the company that sacked them. However, it wasn’t a short car journey for the trade union reps that staged the protest. Instead, Unite travelled half way across the world to make the case for the sacked workers from the Port of Felixstowe.
The Felixstowe Four
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 and its local reps organised walkouts in August and September 2022. The strikes 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.
However, this wasn’t the case for four workers who are also Unite reps. Bosses sacked them in what Unite claims was “unfair dismissal” over union organising. 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.
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.
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Now, Unite has taken the fight for the so-called Felixstowe Four one step further. Or rather, it’s taken it thousands of miles further – to Hong Kong.
Unite: campaigning in Hong Kong
The union said that during the trip it is:
seeking meetings with key investors of the CK Hutchison group including Allianz, Barclays, Blackrock, Goldman Sachs and HSBC.
Union reps were also picketing CK Hutchison’s annual general meeting (AGM). They did a banner drop outside the company’s HQ, amid “heavy security” according to the union:
Unite’s delegation also engaged with CK Hutchison shareholders over the company’s treatment of the Felixstowe Four. Head of executive operations for Unite Gail Cartmail said the delegation:
delivered a message to CK Hutchison and their most important shareholders: no matter how powerful you are or how far away you may be, you cannot escape our demand for justice for the Felixstowe Four.
Our team of capital analysts have made it very clear to CK Hutchison and investors that this campaign will only escalate and they must do the right thing by reinstating the Felixstowe Four today.
Here, Unite isn’t doing things by halves. Staging a protest 6,000 miles away from the scene of the crime is quite a bold move. Clearly Unite considers it necessary, and that itself may yield results for the workers.
The case of the Felixstowe Four is a prime example of bosses thinking they can intimidate an entire workforce into submission. Clearly, CK Hutchison underestimated the literal lengths Unite would go to in order to defend its members.
Featured image and additional images via Unite the Union
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