Hundreds of workers at one of the UK’s largest container ports will go on strike for two weeks from Monday evening in a dispute over pay, in a move that could further disrupt UK supply chains.
Unite members at the Port of Liverpool will begin the industrial action hours after the Queen’s funeral, having turned down a pay offer from the Peel Ports Group, which owns the site.
The company said workers had rejected a 8.3% pay rise, enhanced with a one-off payment of £750. However the union described the offer as a real-terms pay cut because of the soaring rate of inflation during the cost of living crisis, arguing that the port’s owners could afford a higher increase.
The dispute will overlap with a planned second eight-day strike at Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port, which starts the week after.
Unite members at the Suffolk port, which handles almost half the container freight that enters the UK, are preparing to halt work from 27 September, after rejecting a 7% pay deal offered by management.
A previous eight-day strike at Felixstowe, which handles goods for 17 different shipping lines operating to and from 700 ports, brought it to a standstill.
The latest round of walkouts threaten fresh disruption to UK supply chains after the shocks of Brexit and the Covid pandemic, and follow a summer of industrial action that has affected sectors across the economy including the railways, postal service, law courts and telecoms.
David Huck, the Port of Liverpool’s chief operating officer, said: “I am deeply disappointed Unite has rejected our significant pay package after many months of negotiation. This is bad news for our employees, families and other local employers.
“We fully recognise our colleagues’ concerns on the cost of living crisis, and that’s why we have responded with a pay package that represents a 10% average increase in annual pay.”
Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “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.”
She said the port’s owners needed to table a “reasonable offer and fulfil its previous pay promises”.
The company said it had committed to a shift pattern change that would result in a 25% reduction in night-shift working. It also said the average container operative’s salary would increase to about £43,000 a year, significantly above the Liverpool and national average.
The Port of Liverpool operates two container terminals, the Royal Seaforth Container Terminal and Liverpool2, employing a total of 845 people in the containers division.
The docks handled approximately 525,000 containers in 2021 and the goods inside the containers were distributed around the world, with the products including imports and exports, such as retail and industrial items.