U.K. port workers join rail staff in strikes as prices soar

LONDON (AP) — Almost 2,000 workers at the U.K.’s biggest container port will launch an eight-day strike Sunday over a pay dispute, the latest industrial action to hit the U.K. economy.

Workers including crane drivers and machine operators will walk off their jobs at Felixstowe port on England’s east coast, which handles around 4 million containers a year from 2,000 ships.

The strike comes as people across the U.K. faced travel disruptions Saturday for the third day this week as thousands of rail workers continued a summer of strikes to seek better pay and job security amid soaring food and energy price hikes.

Only around one in five U.K. trains were expected to run on Saturday, with some areas having no services all day. Soccer and cricket fans attending sports games, as well as tourists, were among those affected. The disruptions will continue into Sunday, and union leaders say more strikes are likely.

On Friday, most of London’s underground subway lines did not run due to a separate strike.

The Unite union alleges that Felixstowe port’s parent company, CK Hutchison Holding Ltd., prioritized profits instead of paying workers a decent wage.

Port authorities, for their part, said they were “disappointed” that Unite did not “come to the table for constructive discussions to find a resolution.”

Felixstowe handles almost half of the container freight entering the country. The strike could mean vessels have to be diverted to ports elsewhere in the U.K. or Europe.

A growing number of unions are planning strikes as Britain faces its worst cost-of-living crisis in decades. Latest figures put inflation at 10.1% – a 40-year-high – and increasing numbers of Britons are struggling to cope with steeply rising energy and food bills as wages fail to catch up with the cost of living.

Postal workers, lawyers, British Telecom staff and garbage collectors have all announced walkouts for later this month.

Rail workers began a series of large-scale strikes that grounded national train travel in June, demanding better pay and working conditions as authorities try to reform the rail system, which has lost large chunks of its income due to the coronavirus pandemic and shifting commuting patterns.

The government and transit unions have not reached a resolution despite months of talks.

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