Port of Felixstowe strike workers enter final day – BBC

Almost 2,000 workers have entered their final day of industrial action at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk. How do people who live and work in the area feel about the action taken by the dockers at UK's largest container port?
The Port of Felixstowe is internationally significant, handling almost half of the container freight entering the UK – around four million containers a year from 2,000 ships.
But its importance is also "massive" for the local area and economy, says retired tug driver Jon Cowell.
The 66-year-old, who supports the dockers' strikes, says he has seen the port "emerge from a tiny little dock bay to what it is today".
He says without the port, the Edwardian seaside town "wouldn't be anywhere near as vibrant or as busy as it is today".
"The seaside does good business but that's only during the summer. During the winter it can be a bit bleak around here but at least you've got money coming into the community and that's keeping the majority of our shops open," he says.
Mr Cowell, who lives near the high street, says shift work at the port is "onerous to say the least" and the workers have been "having below inflationary pay rises for about 10 years now".
"Good luck to them, the company has made an awful lot of money over the years… I think all of the people who are making a lot of money out of it now have got plenty of it to be spreading it around with the fellas who do the dock work and make it what it is today," he says.
Meanwhile Jade Hurn, who works in Felixstowe, says it is difficult to give a true opinion without knowing all of the details.
The 26-year-old estate agent says: "It's hard to make everybody happy but if you make the majority of people unhappy, they are going to say something about it and that's what has happened."
She added: "It's hard to have an opinion on every single level of role that's affected by it unless you know what everybody is earning and what everybody's lifestyle is like, and the people who do know that sort of information are the people who don't really have to strike."
Miss Hurn says she has been affected by the increased cost in fuel, describing the price as "ridiculous", as she travels from her home in Stowmarket to work in the coastal town.
She says if everybody could get a pay rise in line with inflation, which is what the dock workers are calling for, "that would be great".
"But that's not to say they don't deserve it because we haven't got it, if they can get it good for them."
But as far as postal worker Dan Jacobs is concerned, the dockers are "paid enough".
The 47-year-old from Felixstowe is one of the thousands of postal workers who started their four days of industrial action on Friday.
Royal Mail postal workers are also walking out on 31 August and 8 and 9 September.
"There are strikes across the board, these strikes, rail strikes and I'm a postman and we're striking but I think the dock strikes are unnecessary as I think they get paid enough," says Mr Jacobs.
"The average wage of a docker is over £40,000, I get paid at the moment, because I'm only on a 25-hour contract, £15,000 or £16,000 a year and I can live on that.
"So if they're being paid double that, they don't need to strike, do they?"
He adds: "I wish we didn't have to strike but because we've been offered 2% we need to, but the dockers have been offered 7% and I think they should accept it."
Royal Mail said the Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents the postal workers, had rejected a pay rise offer "worth up to 5.5%" after three months of talks.
The union has called for Royal Mail to increase wages to an amount that "covers the current cost of living".
Members of the union Unite who work at the Port of Felixstowe are on their eighth and final day of industrial action.
It is the first time in 30 years that dock workers have gone on strike.
Striking workers include crane drivers, machine operators and stevedores, who load and unload ships.
Unite's national officer, Robert Morton, says members wanted an "increase to match inflation and not to come back with anything less".
He adds: "I don't think 7% is a particularly generous offer in relation to the company's profits."
The company says the average wage of workers is around £43,000 but Mr Morton says some of the union's members were on £20,000 a year, so the "figures don't equate".
Paul Davey, a spokesman for the port which is owned by CK Hutchison Holding Ltd, says the strike action is "unnecessary".
"The offer we've made to them is worth £3,500 extra this year in their pockets and the strike Unite has called is actually going to take the thick end of £1,000 out of each of their pockets," he says.
"We will talk if they suspend the strike and they are committed to finding a resolution."
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