Dockworkers Reject Liverpool’s Offer Setting Stage for Two-Week Strike

Liverpool dock strike
Liverpool's dockworkers are set to start their strike tonight, September 19 (Peel Ports)

Published Sep 19, 2022 2:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

Unionized dockworkers at the Port of Liverpool rejected the latest contract proposal clearing the way for a two-week strike to begin tonight after the UK’s day of mourning for HM Queen Elizabeth II. Peel Ports which operates the container terminals at one of the UK’s busiest ports is urging Unite the union to return to the negotiations. The union has said members will be on strike till October 3 calling for wage increases that match the rate of inflation.

“We fully recognize our colleagues’ concerns on the cost-of-living crisis,” said David Huck, Chief Operating Officer of Peel Ports. “That’s why we have responded with a pay package which represents a 10 percent average increase in annual pay. I am deeply disappointed Unite has rejected our significant pay package after many months of negotiation.”

The Port of Liverpool operates two container terminals, which also have links to Scotland, Ireland, and inland ports along the Manchester Ship Canal. The port handles approximately 75,000 TEU a month with on average 60 ship calls each month. 

Peel received formal notification from Unite on September 16 that the latest proposal was rejected. Peel contents that it offered a package that equates to a 10 percent average increase in annual pay, backdated to June. It would be made up of a 7 percent raise in base pay, a further 1.3 percent addition increase, and an additional £750 ($856) one-time discretionary payment for each port employee. 

The union, Peel contents continues to demand an increase in base pay in excess of 12.3 percent. With additional concessions sought by the union, Peel said the package would equate to approximately a 20 percent increase. Peel responds that over the past decade, annual pay increases have been above inflation every year with the total increase nearing 50 percent for some positions. 

In addition to the wage increases, Peel reports it has also made a commitment to changes in the work shifts for dockworkers. They said the changes would result in a 25 percent reduction in night shift work.

With the UK confronted with its worst inflation in years, the country has faced a broad range of labor actions in recent weeks. Concern however is growing for the supply chain as workers at Felixstowe have also authorized a second strike over wages set to overlap the Liverpool strike. While the two ports operate independently and are not on the same routes, the concurrent strikes are still expected to further disrupt shipments in what is traditionally a peak season. During the earlier strike, carriers blanked calls at Felixstowe with fears that they might attempt to offload and transship containers from other European ports that are already extremely busy.