Port of Liverpool workers join Felixstowe counterparts in announcing strike action

Tue 16 Aug 2022
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

Port of Liverpool faces strike action

Workers at the Port of Liverpool, the UK’s fourth largest dock by volume, have opted to strike over pay, raising the prospect of further supply chain disruption.

Over 500 dockers represented by the union Unite voted yesterday (15 August) in favour of industrial action.

From the 88% turnout of union members, 99% voted to reject the 7% pay increase offered by the Mersey Dock and Harbour Company (MDHC) – the Peel Ports’ subsidiary that runs Liverpool Port.

A Unite spokesperson told the Loadstar that the offer was “a real terms pay cut”.

Cost of living

Richard Mitchell, Peel Ports’ Liverpool container director, said: “We fully appreciate our colleagues’ concerns on the rising cost of living.”

“Our offer of 7% is on top of a rise of 4.5% last year and includes other improvements to shifts, sick pay and pensions, which further complements a decade of industry-leading pay awards.”

Liverpool workers have yet to set a date for their action, but Politico reports a warning by Bobby Morton – a Unite rep for Felixstowe – that “if the dispute goes on for any length of time, then you would have the two largest ports in the UK on strike with nothing moving through them”.

Key trade hub

The Port of Liverpool is a key hub for trans-Atlantic imports and exports. Stoppages will add to supply-chain disruption expected from Felixstowe’s shutdown next week, reports Bloomberg.

Maintenance engineers at Liverpool’s port could also strike over pay, Unite said. More than 60 engineering staff are being balloted on halting work, with the vote closing on 24 August. 

Heavy load

The North-Western port handles more than 75,000 20-foot containers and more than 60 vessels each month, according to the Maritime Executive.

Felixstowe, where strike action is due to start on 21 August, is the UK’s biggest container port, handling almost half of Britain’s container traffic, particularly those from Asia.

Diverted ships

Freight companies have speculated that carriers might route blank sailings into the two ports or attempt to divert containers to other ports.

Maersk advised customers that it intends to try to reroute vessels either in the ports before the strike or hold traffic until labour becomes available again.

Logistics unrest

The port strikes add to industrial unrest that is affecting supply chains, as logistics workers facing a growing cost of living crisis are demanding higher wages.

1,900 workers at the Port of Felixstowe, who voted for industrial action earlier this month, will strike for eight days from 21 August.

As covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update, 115,000 Royal Mail staff have also voted for four days of strikes from this month, while Amazon workers have launched a series of unofficial strikes at some depots.