Second port joins strike action

Greetings deliveries suffer as Liverpool and Felixstowe workers up pressure on UK’s supply chain


With a second eight-day strike set to close Felixstowe port next week, workers at the Port Of Liverpool have upped the pressure on the UK’s beleaguered supply chain by walking out today, 20 September, for a two-week strike.

The Unite union members are now out until 3 October, having rejected an 8% rise and one-off payment of £750 from Peel Ports Group, which operates the port – and the strike will overlap with the second 1,700-strong walk-out at Felixstowe that’s planned from 27 September.

As the UK’s largest container port, handling almost half the container freight that enters the country, Felixstowe deals with goods from 17 different shipping lines operating to and from 700 ports, including China and the Far East where much of the greetings industry’s overseas manufacturing takes place, and the delays will be exacerbated by China’s Golden Week where factories across the country are shut from 1-7 October.

Above: Felixstowe is the UK’s largest container port
Above: Felixstowe is the UK’s largest container port

Danilo Promotions is among the greetings businesses already impacted with some container loads of its Christmas cards, gift wrap, gift bags and calendars set for major UK high street store clients delayed by two to three months.

Founder Laurence Prince believes this could cost the business hundreds of thousands of pounds. He suggests the government has a role to play in boosting shipping’s resilience, including working with the ports to find agreement with striking workers.

In a special Supply Chain Resilience edition of The Raconteur, a supplement of The Times newspaper, Laurence said: “The government could get involved and limit the cost of containers or put a cap on what we can be charged. It’s not only our Christmas products. It’s food and grain and everything else,” while acknowledging the impact on “vital necessities coming into the country”.

Like many other manufacturers, a switch to air freight for Danilo is impossible because of the expense and space needed for such a heavy load of products, and it’s that inability to find other options that leads many to fear shipping’s current pressures will continue for the long term, causing continual changes and updates to logistical planning and financial forecasting.

Above: The Times’ special supply chain supplement features Laurence Prince
Above: The Times’ special supply chain supplement features Laurence Prince

Having suffered through the pandemic and when global supply chains slowed last year as a result of the gargantuan Ever Given container ship blocking the Suez Canal for six days, even the weather is against businesses relying on overseas shipments – an unprecedented heatwave in China disrupted vital logistical routes, and the typhoon Muifa is set to lead to port closures just as shippers prepare for pre-Golden Week sailings.

When Felixstowe was closed at the end of August, Laurence explained Danilo produces 50% of its officially licensed cards, calendars and stationery in the UK while the rest comes from China and the Far East with delivery schedules planned six months in advance – and fines if deliveries to the big store customers aren’t on time.

Above: Danilo founder and chairman Laurence Prince with son and md Daniel
Above: Danilo founder and chairman Laurence Prince with son and md Daniel

“We have timed deliveries to go in to all the major stores in this country,” Laurence added, “and these have to be met because they have to put stuff out on the shelves and the public has to buy them. To give you an idea, two years ago we were paying $2,000 (£1,700) per container, last year we paid $20,000 (£17,000) – that’s a 1,000% rise – so you can understand the frustration we’re going through.”

The Suffolk dockworkers decided to strike over their demands for a pay rise due to the current levels of soaring inflation and in recognition of their work during the pandemic when they had accepted below-inflation pay settlements. After the port of Felixstowe offered a 7% rise and a one-off £500 payment to staff, talks broke down and Unite called the industrial action.

Now Liverpool’s dockworkers have joined in , with celebrity support from former Reds star Jamie Carragher who shared a video on Unite’s Twitter page saying he was“fully behind” the strike. “You’ve got my support and backing,” he added.

Top: Hundreds of workers at the Port Of Liverpool stopped work today

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