Third Strike Begins at Liverpool as Potential Agreement Collapses
The third strike in less than two months began today, October 24, at the Port of Liverpool after a potential agreement collapsed with new rounds of recrimination from both Peel Ports and Unite the Union. Unite followed through on its earlier announcement and nearly 600 dockworkers returned to the picket lines just a week after ending their previous strike. The current action is scheduled to run until November 7.
The union accused Peel Ports’ board of failing to support a pay deal that had been agreed in principle with the management on October 20 and which the workers were willing to accept to avert another strike. The port argues that it wanted to go to mediation and that it is the union that blocked the latest offers.
At issue is the demand from the union for pay increases keeping pace with the UK’s approximately 12 percent rate of inflation. The union contends that Peel is offering around eight percent while the port says it improved its offer six times to the latest 11 percent for the base employee. The strikes at the port began on September 19.
“The Unite team negotiated in good faith with Peel Ports. But the talks ended in farce, with the deal agreed between Unite and senior management being pulled by the board. Strike action by our members, and with the full support of Unite, will go ahead,” said Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary. She accused Peel Ports of acting with untrustworthy behavior saying its attempts to threaten the workforce with job cuts are only escalating the dispute.
The latest industrial action comes when Peel Ports is warning that the strikes are likely to have long-term negative impacts on its business. The operator reports that before the disputes, the Port of Liverpool had recorded a 15 percent decline in container volume due to the downturn in the United Kingdom’s economic conditions.
Since mid-August, the business they contend has lost a further 15 percent of container volumes including contracted shipping lines that have always used the port of Liverpool shifting their business to other UK and Northern Europe ports. Cargo from Glasgow, Belfast, and Dublin that once transshipped through Liverpool has now been rescheduled to Northern European ports.
“Many of these customers, who we have all worked hard to attract to the Port of Liverpool over the last decade, have now lost confidence in our proposition and are simply unable or unwilling to schedule services with us on a forward planned rotation,” said David Huck, Peel Ports Chief Operating Officer.
He added that due to the industrial actions that have forced shipping lines to use other ports, Peel Ports is forecasting a minimum 30 percent downturn in volumes over the longer term, which would be a significant blow to the sustainability of the Liverpool containers division.
The Port of Liverpool operates two container terminals, the Royal Seaforth and Liverpool 2, handling as many as 75,000 TEU per month and 60 vessels. Annually, the port handles an average of 700,000 TEU.