Union Plans Broader Second Strike at Liverpool Rejecting Wage Offer

Liverpool port strike
Workers have been on strike at ther port of Liverpool since September 20 (USDAW Union)

Published Sep 29, 2022 2:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

Union officials are planning to increase the pressure on the UK ports announcing plans for a second strike at the port of Liverpool that will encompass more of the employees of Peel Ports operators of the container port. Today’s announcement for a second strike a Liverpool comes five days before the first strike is due to end and according to analysts the timing is designed to increase the disruptions to the UK’s supply chain.

“The disruption caused to the port of Liverpool and the supply lines that depend on it is entirely the fault of MDHC (Mersey Docks and Harbour Company) and Peel Ports,” said Steven Gerrard, national coordinator for free ports at the union Unite. “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.”

Currently, nearly 600 dock workers and engineers are in the second week of a two-week strike called by the union that began on September 20th, delayed one day by the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. The first strike is due to end Sunday night, October 2, but Unite now reports that the workers will resume the strike between October 11 and 17. 

The decision to proceed with the second strike came after talks on September 27 between the port’s operator Peel Ports and the union failed to make progress. The union continues to reject a reported 8.3 percent wage increase offered by MDHC, citing the UK’s current retail inflation rate which is running above 12 percent. In addition, the union is citing Peel Port’s failure to honor a 2021 agreement to undertake a broader pay review and improve work shifts.

Peel Ports previously said that over the past decade wage increases have outpaced inflation and the new offer equates to approximately 10 percent when a proposed one-time payment is factored in as well as the company’s plan to backdate the wage increases to June. Further, they cite new hires and changes in work schedules that will result in a 25 percent reduction in overnight night shifts.

Joining the dockworkers on the picket line for the second strike will be senior control room operators and control room operators who have now voted to also strike. Further, Unite says a strike vote is now planned for the port’s dock masters, shift managers, and vessel traffic services officers.

“Our members will not back down and neither will Unite,” promised Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite. She said they are prepared to repeatedly strike, “MDHC needs to keep its previous pay promises and put forward a proper pay rise now.”

Analysts said the timing of the second strike would present additional problems in the UK as carriers and shippers would have less time to prepare and reschedule the movement of goods. CNBC is citing data from MDS Transmodal which calculates the value of the trade that is processed at the Port of Liverpool at approximately $1 billion a week. Combined with the port of Felixstowe, which is also on strike this week, the report says a total of $7 billion moves through the two ports each week with a third linked to the U.S. According to customs data, CNC says Liverpool handles cars and parts for Ford and Chrysler as well as chocolates, lumber, apparel, whiskey and beer, and other consumer goods.

The port strikes are just the latest in a long list of union actions across the UK in the past few months all centering on demands for better wage increases to keep pace with the current rate of inflation. Last week, the new government of Prime Minister Liz Truss said it planned to tighten rules on future strikes as it struggles to manage the pressures on the UK economy.