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Liverpool Port Workers Vote to Strike for Better Wages

Liverpool dock workers strike
Port workers in Liverpool plan to follow Felixstowe and go on strike for better wages (Peel Ports file photo)

Published Aug 15, 2022 4:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

In the first of two votes, union members at the Port of Liverpool in western England have voted to strike for a pay increase. News of the possible strike comes as the shipping industry prepares for a strike at Felixstowe scheduled to run all next by the same union. Officials are forecasting the latest in a wave of strikes passing through the United Kingdom could place a further strain on the supply chain disrupting shipping patterns in key ports across Europe.

Trade union Unite released the results of a strike vote taken among more than 500 of its members working in the Liverpool port saying the members supported a labor action over “an inadequate seven percent pay offer.”  They reported that 88 percent of members cast their vote with an overwhelming 99 percent in favor of a strike.

“Our members are struggling with rising living costs,” Unite national coordinator Steven Gerrard said calling for the port operator MDHC, which is part of Peel Ports, to “come back with a deal that meets our members expectations.” With rising consumer inflation, the union argues that the offer is tantamount to a pay cut for members. 

“The responsibility for Liverpool container docks grinding to a halt will lie firmly with MDHC,” said Gerrard. Peel Ports reports that Liverpool handles more than 75,000 TEU and more than 60 vessels each month. 

The union has not yet set a date for the potential strike at Liverpool, instead reported that a second strike authorization vote was commencing. Voting started today for the 60 maintenance engineers that also are employed by MDHC that could also go on strike over the same pay offer. The ballot closes on August 24. 

“What’s happening at MDHC is another example of why workers in this country have had enough,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham. Once again, a profitable company controlled by a tax-exiled billionaire is refusing to give its workers a cost-of-living pay rise.”

Unite and other unions across the UK have moved aggressively to win higher pay increases in the face of strong inflation. Rail workers and others have all begun strikes calling for companies to provide what they call fair pay based on corporations’ rising profits over the past two years and now the soaring cost of living in the UK. Unite highlighted earlier today that it had won a new package for staff employees at British Airways that amounts to the equivalent of a 13 percent increase made up of a lump sum payment and a two-stage wage increase.

The same union rejected a similar seven percent wage increase along with a lump sum payment proposed by the Port of Felixstowe. As with Liverpool, they called the offer inadequate and refused to continue talks after the mediation efforts failed a week ago. Unite has scheduled an 8-day strike due to begin on August 21 at Felixstowe.

Freight companies have speculated that the carriers might blank sailings into the UK ports or attempt to divert containers to other ports possibly through transshipment from Europe. Maersk, however, last week advised customers, that it intended to try and reroute vessels either in the ports before the strike or hold traffic until labor was available at the port. Either way, the strikes are likely to add further disruptions especially with Felixstowe being included on the largest carriers’ primary routes from Asia.