Thursday, 12 December 2019

Port engineers prepare to strike as union hits back over outsourcing plans

Sarah Chambers

Engineering workers at Felixstowe Docks have voted for strike action Picture: IAIN BLACKLAW

Engineering workers at Felixstowe docks are set to go out on strike in a row over plans to outsource their jobs.

More than 110 engineers, who are employed by the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company, voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action, with 98% in favour. They unanimously voted for industrial action short of a strike over plans to transfer a number of them to Universal Tyres.
Union Unite, which is representing the workers, said the dispute was over the threat they say is faced by some of them that they will have to transfer to the outside company. 
It will be informing the employer of strike dates in the next few days.
There are about 1,900 Unite members at the Port of Felixstowe - which is the UK's busiest container port - including the 116 engineers.
At the current time, only the tyre fitting operation faces being transferred, the union said, but it fears that this could be the start of a trend.
Unite regional officer Milles Hubbard said: "The crux of this dispute is that our engineering members consider that the identity of their employer is a condition of their employment contract and they do not want that being changed unilaterally. 
"What we have here, if this outscoring proposal involving Universal Tyres goes ahead, is the thin end of the wedge which, we believe, will see a salami-slicing of pay and conditions in the future. This is completely unacceptable.
"At present, the threat is just to the tyre fitting operation, but we fear that this could affect more of our engineering members going forward. 
"We have now had an overwhelming mandate for strike action from our members over this issue and will be informing the company of strike dates in the next few days. 
"However, there is still time for management to row back on these misguided plans that have nothing to do with the smooth running of the port, but are designed to squeeze out the last ounce of profit at the expense of the dedicated workforce. 
"If the employer's outsourcing agenda continues to gather momentum, we will have no hesitation in balloting the rest of our 1,800 members at the port for industrial action, which will have grave implications for Felixstowe's operations in a competitive environment."
The Port of Felixstowe declined to comment.

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