Docks and car workers to vote on strike action

Halewood plant

The threat of strike action looms over two key Merseyside industries.

Members of trade union Unite are being balloted over potential strike action which could affect the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Knowsley, as well as Liverpool docks.

About 2,000 DHL logistics workers, who sort and deliver components at JLR sites across the UK, are being balloted for industrial action, including the option to strike, after receiving no pay rise since 2018.

Unite said it understands that DHL has accepted about £95m of taxpayers’ furlough cash. The company globally made profits of £1.2bn. The ballot closes on Monday, November 15.

The union warned that the impact of any industrial action at a number of sites, including the Halewood plant in South Liverpool, would be ‘serious and immediate’.

DHL has offered 1.75% to cover the two-and-a-half years from 2020, which the union said was “grossly inadequate”, given the soaring cost of living and the RPI inflation rate at 4.9%.

Unite held talks with DHL bosses under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas today (October 20).

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “DHL was happy to take tens of millions of taxpayers’ furlough money and worldwide has made more than £1bn in profit. DHL can well afford to give the workforce a decent pay rise – the first since 2018 – and the members will have full union support in getting a decent deal.”

Unite national officer for road transport and logistics, Matt Draper, said: “Any industrial action by our members, who sort and deliver components to the production lines, will have a serious and immediate impact on vehicle production. The current offer is grossly inadequate.

“We are having talks at Acas today and we hope DHL has sent the right people and brings forward constructive proposals for a decent pay increase that will avert possible strike action.”

Meanwhile, Unite is warning that the refusal of the nation’s port employers to make fair pay offers to their workers could result in industrial action, causing disruption to the nation’s supply chain.

More than 1,000 dock workers are currently preparing to be balloted for strike action.

Unite says employers are seeking to impose pay freezes or proposing pay increases that are so far below the current inflation rate it amounts to a pay cut in real terms.

Sharon Graham said: “Dockers in the UK play an absolutely essential role in ensuring that we all receive the goods we need, including medicines and keeping food on supermarket shelves.

“There is absolutely no way that Unite is going to allow our members to suffer real terms pay cuts. Where employers are making huge profits workers deserve a decent deal and Unite will organise to achieve that.”

The union said industrial relations are being further damaged because the majority of docks have never been so busy. Ports are struggling to cope with demand due to a combination of the HGV driver shortage, Brexit and the effect of the pandemic on shipping.

Dockers worked throughout the pandemic to keep supplies coming into the UK. At. the time they were hailed as heroes but now they are facing pay cuts, said Unite.

Industrial action is likely to affect Forth Ports, PD Ports and Peel Ports, which operates the Port of Liverpool.

Workers at the Port of Liverpool have rejected a three per cent pay increase.

Unite national officer Bobby Morton said: “Our members are simply seeking a fair rate of pay for a hard days work.

“Our members have never been so busy with their work being disrupted and made more difficult by the shortage of lorry drivers, Brexit and the effect of the pandemic on shipping routes.

“Employers can avoid industrial action by returning to negotiations and making a fair pay offer to our members.”

Unite warned that if employers don’t make rapid improvements in pay offers it will move swiftly towards full industrial action ballots and strikes could begin before the end of the year.

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