YESTERDAY’S 8.00am Unite mass protest at the Port of Felixstowe to end bullying management culture and to defend union reps was postponed at the last minute, following further company threats.
CK Hutchison Holdings, which owns Felixstowe Port in Suffolk, has suspended seven port workers, most of whom are Unite union reps.
The demonstration by port workers in support of the sacked men, which was planned to take place on the green in front of the port, was postponed.
Regional Organiser of Unite, Miles Hubbard, explained to News Line yesterday: ‘We had 16 days of strike action over pay. We have been offered a rise of 15.5% over two years plus a one-off £1,000 bonus. A ballot on the pay offer has commenced and the result is awaited.
‘On the first day of the strike, the CEO came out to talk to pickets and asked some for their names.
‘Another senior manager started filming the pickets.
‘Shortly afterwards, seven members were suspended by the company. Four of them were sacked and three are awaiting disciplinaries.
‘They are accused of creating a hostile atmosphere by sharing material on social media. It was not offensive and no one has complained. Nevertheless, they sacked the four.
‘Six of the seven were union reps – all well respected members of the community. We are going to a tribunal with those. We are having a ballot with potentially a view to getting the seven reinstated.
‘The company have shown their true colours. We can’t accept our people being victimised in that way.’
Hubbard continued: ‘We had a rumour of a threat on Saturday that anyone who turned up to the rally on the green today would be “supporting and condoning bullying and there would be consequences”.
‘We have been unable to get a legal response in time. We don’t want anyone else sacked.
‘If someone were dismissed for peaceful protest, such as the rally, that would be illegal.
‘We’re balloting for strike action over these suspensions and plan to turn out in force on Saturday.’
Unite member, Emmanuel Sillah, commented: ‘In the present climate, no employer should be involved in any modern slavery; depriving workers to have freedom of expression or freedom of association.
‘These rights are supposed to be the elements of democracy. They sell this to the whole world. They treat us as disposable tissues – use it and throw it away. We are not robots.
We need a real workers’ government. It’s the workers that sustain and protect society.’
• CK Hutchison Holdings, which runs Felixstowe port, holds interests in 52 ports in 26 countries.
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