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Further UK port disruption as Liverpool strike date set

Workers at Peel Ports’ Liverpool site will stop work for two weeks from September 19

Dispute over pay levels will see a stoppage at Liverpool as negotiations fail to reach an agreement. Strike comes after Felixstowe workers return to work without an agreement over pay

THE UK faces further supply chain disruptions later this month after Unite the Union announced that strike action would go ahead at Liverpool between September 19 and October 3.

The announcement came after workers at the Peel Ports-owned facility overwhelmingly supported a ballot in favour of striking.

More than 500 workers will walk out after what the Unite union described as an “inadequate” 7% pay offer from Peel Ports subsidiary Mersey Docks and Harbour Co, which it claimed was a real-terms pay cut.

Of the 88% of members that voted in the ballot, 99% were in favour of the strike, which is likely to bring port operations to a halt.

“MDHC is controlled by a tax-exiled billionaire and can well afford to pay these workers a proper pay rise,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham. “Workers across the country are sick to death of being told to take a hit on their wages and living standards while employer after employer is guilty of rampant profiteering. MDHC needs to think again, table a reasonable offer and fulfil its previous pay promises.”

The strike action would severely disrupt both shipping and road transport in Liverpool and the surrounding areas, Unite said, and it warned that more strikes were set to be scheduled in the coming weeks if MDHC failed to put forward an acceptable offer to the workers.

“MDHC has refused to honour the previous pay pledges it made to our members and is refusing to put forward an acceptable pay rise now,” said Unite lead officer for freeports Steven Gerrard. “MDHC needs to deliver on the agreements it made in 2021 as well as tabling an offer our members can accept for 2022.”

Peel Ports said the move was designed to disrupt operations after a pay offer was rejected by the union.

“Despite a series of meetings, we are very disappointed Unite the Union has confirmed strike action by its Port of Liverpool Containers’ members,” said Peel Ports chief operating officer David Huck.

“Whilst we fully appreciate our colleagues’ concerns on the rising cost of living, we have proposed an industry leading pay package of 8.3%. This is all in addition to a 4.5% increase in 2021, with improvements to shifts, sick pay and pensions, and following continuous and above average pay awards over the last 10 years.

He added that the port would urge the union to maintain dialogue to reach a resolution and avoid action that would be “bad news for the sector, businesses and families, with the effects being felt for many months to come, at a time when container volume demand has started to reduce”.

At Felixstowe, where an eight-day strike concluded last week, operations have returned to normal, according to sources close to the port.

But the dispute ended without a resolution to the union’s pay demands and Unite has indicated it may take further action if there is no movement from operator Hutchison.

It is unclear as yet how much support the union has for more action and whether workers will want to risk more unpaid days when there is an offer on the table from the port.

Supply chain visibility provider FourKites noted that while containers were moving across the docks again, the backlog of export cargo at Felixstowe had increased during the strike.

When the strike started on August 21, average on-dock dwell times stood at 5.7 days, but this had risen by over 150% to 14.5 days by September 1.

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