Third dock strike confirmed as peace talks collapse ‘in chaos’

A third Port of Liverpool strike is set to start on Monday, October 24, after claims and counter-claims flew over the breakdown of peace talks.

The two-week stoppage will be the third in a series of strikes by Unite the Union members, first over Peel Ports’ pay offer, but now including redundancies after the port announced it was cutting 132 jobs.

Unite said talks on Friday ended in chaos, saying it had gone to the negotiating table in good faith to reach a deal with the company, but claimed management reneged on the agreement.

A union statement said: “It was believed the deal would be accepted by the workforce. However, any chance to halt the industrial action has been lost after Peel Ports’ board intervened to stop the deal, which had been agreed in principle, from going ahead.”

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “The Unite team negotiated in good faith with Peel Ports. But the talks ended in farce, with the deal agreed between Unite and senior management being pulled by the board. Strike action by our members and with the full support of Unite will go ahead.

“Peel Ports’ untrustworthy behaviour and its attempts to threaten the workforce are only escalating the dispute.”

The union claimed that, since strikes at the docks began on September 19, workers have been subject to job threats, despite plans to expand the port, and untrue statements exaggerating the amount the company has offered as a pay increase.

It said Peel Ports has paid out £300m in dividends over the past five years and recently recorded pre-tax profits of £141m.

Unite national officer, Robert Morton, said: “Our members’ resolve is only increasing with every new low the company sinks to. They know Peel Ports can afford to pay a proper increase and that is what has to happen.”

Following a meeting of its Port of Liverpool Container members, Unite the Union has confirmed Peel Ports’ improved pay offer was rejected and strike action is to recommence on Monday, October 24, for two weeks.

Peel Ports chief operating officer, David Huck, said: “It’s hugely disappointing that Unite has staged yet another outdated show-of-hands mass meeting which has, very predictably, failed to support our improved 11% pay offer.

“This is the highest percentage increase of any port group in the UK by far and would see average annual pay rise to £43,275.

“Given we have now improved our offer six times and Unite have consistently blocked the involvement of ACAS to help arbitrate, you have to question whether the union really wants to resolve this damaging industrial action or is simply prolonging it for their own ends.”

He added: “The fact that they have refused to give all employees an independent postal vote on this 11% offer, free from the pressures and undue influence of an outdated show-of-hands, is very telling. Our feedback from many, many workers is that they are in favour of accepting but are too reluctant to do so in a mass meeting.

“Meanwhile, the latest two-week strike will cause yet further damage to our customers, the business and the Liverpool City Region, threating even more jobs at the port.

“It’s wholly irresponsible of Unite to prolong this self-defeating strike. They should have the courage to put this to members and let them have their say. It’s the only way to safeguard as many jobs as possible and implement the most generous pay increase in the industry.”

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