Dock workers in Felixstowe and Liverpool have recently taken coordinated action in struggles for real pay rises. Such tactics should be employed across the whole movement, to topple the Tories and the bosses’ system.
Wednesday 5 October marked the conclusion of the second wave of strike action by workers organised in Unite the Union at the Port of Felixstowe, the UK’s busiest and biggest container port.
Following eight days of continuous strike action in August, the bosses moved to forcibly impose their 7% ‘offer’ on the dock workers.
The workers rightfully rejected this and went out for a further eight days, from 27 September to 5 October.
This latest strike took place in coordination with a dockers’ strike in Liverpool, sparking panic throughout the boss class. They are terrified that both will have a ‘domino effect’ throughout supply chains, damaging stock preparations for the lucrative Christmas period.
With the RPI inflation recently hitting 12.3%, the 7% ‘offer’ now being forced on workers amounts to a real-terms pay cut.
Between the initial bout of strike action in August and the recent eight days of action, negotiations between Unite and the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company stalled and broke down.
In a completely cynical move, the bosses then announced they would impose the offer on the workers, 1,900 of whom are organised with Unite.
“Unite say they are a democratic union, but their words don’t match their deeds,” one spokesman for the Port asserted, lashing out at the union. “They are promoting a national agenda at the expense of many of our employees.”
But does the decision to terminate the negotiation process and enforce a deal upon workers sound like the action of an employer concerned with democracy?
This is one naked example of how workers are subjected to the tyranny of the bosses under capitalism.
In response to being locked out of discussions Bobby Morton, the Unite national officer for docks, stated: “Rather than seeking to negotiate a deal to resolve the dispute, the company instead tried to impose a pay deal.
“Further strike action will inevitably lead to delays and disruption to the UK’s supply chain, but this is entirely of the company’s own making.”
Instead of engaging with the union, the bosses have been engaged in a series of underhand tricks in an attempt to break the strike.
Socialist Appeal supporters have heard how the company is offering those that cross the picket line a one-off bonus payment and even free use of the cafeteria.
Meanwhile, they have arranged a shuttle bus to bring scabs into the port through a separate entrance, so that they aren’t seen crossing the picket.
One worker has also supposedly been suspended simply for wearing a GoPro camera on their bike helmet when they joined the picket line!
But whilst the bosses throw their toys out of the pram, the union has remained steadfast throughout this industrial action.
One of the reasons behind the panic of big business towards this strike is that it was coordinated with an 11-day-long dockers’ strike at the Port of Liverpool.
There, hundreds of workers, also organised in Unite, walked out from 19 September to 3 October against a similarly poor pay offer of 8.3%.
The dockers in Liverpool have militant traditions, striking for over two years from 1995-1998 following a lockout. Such traditions are being revived with this dispute.
On the first day of action, hundreds of pickets marched to the gates chanting “Fuck The Tories” and “the dockers united will never be defeated”. Later in the action, the Felixstowe dockers went up to Liverpool to stand in solidarity.
The Liverpool dockers have announced further strike days from 11-17 October, should they fail to secure a real pay rise from the Peel Ports-operated terminal.
With coordinated strikes taking place across both ports, over 60% of the UK’s container port capacity was simultaneously affected by industrial action.
Combined, both ports move an estimated £6 billion of trade a week. This demonstrates the power that these workers hold when they engage in joint action across the same industry.
Solidarity has also been shown by dockers in Southampton, who have refused to handle any cargo that’s been redirected from the Liverpool port.
Dockers in Southampton are refusing to unload boats diverted from striking docks in Liverpool. Quality? pic.twitter.com/hZrEUTqgnN
— Fredi Gentz #JoinACORNUnion (@fredi_acorn) September 28, 2022
Unite and fight
This coordinated action by the dockers is a step in the right direction, and is exactly the kind of tactic that needs to be employed in the face of the bosses’ offensive.
This comes at the same time as rail workers in the RMT and ASLEF and posties in the CWU have also recently taken coordinated strike action.
All of these individual struggles must be consciously united by the TUC, with coordinated action taken across the whole movement. After all, workers in all industries are being crushed by the same crisis-ridden capitalist system.
Real wages have been whittled away gradually over the years. And this has become an even more pressing issue with the rising cost of living.
At the same time, the CEOs and shareholders of these companies make record profits. It could not be any clearer that this is a class war.
A campaign of mass coordinated action, combined with a political campaign of rallies and demonstrations against this teetering Tory government – raising bold socialist demands – would therefore gain a big echo.
This must be the next step for the working class, which is already on the move, to advance its aims.