Liverpool port strikes to intensify as senior staff join walkouts

Unite the Union pickets

Liverpool dockers will stage fresh strikes as action is stepped up over Peel Ports’ pay offer.

And the ongoing dispute could involve senior managers, causing even more disruption to port operations.

More than 500 dock workers are currently on strike, with many picketing the Seaforth docks complex as part of a two week strike, due to end on October 3.

Bosses have said the action has been “damaging” the city’s economy.

But this afternoon (September 29), Unite the Union announced that nearly 600 Liverpool port workers will take seven days of fresh strike action beginning on October 11, and ending on October 17.

And the union said the next stoppage will be even more damaging.

As well as port operatives and engineers taking part in the current action, senior control room operators and control room operators have now voted to join the strikes.

In addition, the port’s dock masters, shift managers and vessel traffic services officers are also preparing to be balloted for strike action.

The combined impact of so many roles striking means the entire port will “literally become inoperable”, said the union.

Unite says the pay offer from MDHC, a company owned by Peel Ports, is around 8.3%, arguing that, with the real rate of inflation, RPI, at 12.3% this is a pay cut.

The union said the dispute is also over the company’s failure to honour the 2021 pay agreement. This includes not undertaking a promised pay review, which last happened in 1995, and failing to deliver on an agreement to improve shift rotas.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, who visited the Liverpool picket line, said: “The anger amongst staff at the greed of this hugely profitable firm and its billionaire owner John Whittaker reaches from one end of the company to the other.

“Our members will not back down and neither will Unite.”

She said the company needs to keep its previous pay promises and put forward a proper pay rise.

Unite claims Peel Ports, which is also the port authority for the Manchester Ship Canal, the River Medway, parts of the River Clyde, 12 Quays at Birkenhead and Heysham Port, has paid out around £300m in dividends over the past five years.

It says the highest paid Peel Ports director received pay and benefits totalling £4.5m in 2021 – a massive increase from £1.6m in 2020.

Unite national coordinator for free ports, Steven Gerrard, said: “The disruption caused to the port of Liverpool and the supply lines that depend on it is entirely the fault of MDHC and Peel Ports.

“If even more staff walk out over the company’s insufficient pay offer, the entire port will literally become inoperable. The company can afford to put forward an offer our members can accept and must do so.”

Speaking before the latest strike was announced, David Huck, chief operating officer of Peel Ports Group, said: “Our concern is on the impact a sustained period of industrial action will have on many of the gains the city region’s economy has made over the last two decades.

“The investments Peel Ports have made over the years have restored Liverpool’s position as a global gateway to the North of England and the UK.

“When we invested in Liverpool2, the port’s deep-sea container terminal, we recognised that for the hundreds of jobs we create, thousands more are created in the wider logistics and maritime sectors across the city region.

“That’s why this dispute is damaging not only for us, but it is bad for business, jobs and the city’s economy.”

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