Unite’s Sharon Graham takes apart claims of Felixstowe employers that they can’t afford pay rise for workers after record profits

"The second spike of inflation is actually down to profiteering and not wages"

Unite balloons being flown at a TUC march

Unite’s General Secretary Sharon Graham has taken apart the claims of Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, that it can’t afford a pay rise for its workers, after 1900 employees went on strike.

Felixstowe in Suffolk is the UK’s largest container port and dock and workers have gone on strike for the first time in 30 years, walking out for eight days.

Unite say that they have carried out their own investigations of the Felixstowe Docks company, its subsidiaries and ultimately its parent company, based in Hong Kong. They found that the company is crying ‘crocodile tears’ when it claims it can’t afford to pay its dockers.

Since 2017 the company has paid out £198 million in dividends most of which have gone to parent companies, with the ultimate holding company being CK Hutchinson Holdings Ltd, which is registered in Hong Kong.

For example, Felixstowe’s accounts for 2020 (at the height of the pandemic) show the company made pre-tax profits of £61 million while also paying a dividend of £99 million.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4 Today, Graham said it was abhorrent for the company to ask their workers to take a pay cut while making record profits.

She said: “Ten days ago they submitted accounts that they had £79 million profit in 2021, £42 million went to shareholder and their profits are up 28%, they’ve made more profit than they’ve ever made in their history and the idea that they are now saying to workers who made them that profit that we’re asking you to take a pay cut is abhorrent to me. The reality is that they have a clear ability to pay.”

Workers are asking for a 10% pay increase.

Graham added: “‘When you’ve got a situation where an employer is making huge profits, £79 million, £42 million to shareholder and then they’re turning to their workers and saying we’ve made these record profits for the first time in our history but what we want you to do is take a pay cut. That’s just not fair.”

The General Secretary of Unite also addressed head on the claim that pay rises for workers will fuel further inflation. She said: “The second spike of inflation is actually down to profiteering and not wages, so when they start dealing with the profiteering that’s going on then maybe we’ll come back and have a discussion about wages.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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