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Liverpool port workers begin second pay strike as talks stall

The union representing dockworkers at the Port of Liverpool has initiated another strike, dismissing a warning of job losses by operator Peel Ports as “desperate” and demanding a pay rise in line with inflation.

From Tuesday until Monday, Oct. 17, workers at Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC), a subsidiary of Peel Ports that operates Liverpool, will walk out in support of demands for a 12.3 percent increase, heaping further disruption on a port still trying to recover from a two-week strike that ended last week.


“Rather than enter into sensible negotiations, Peel Ports is making yet another cynical attempt to intimidate its workers,” Unite National Officer Bobby Morton said in a statement announcing the new strike action.


Morton was referring to an announcement by Peel Ports last week that it will start redundancy consultations that will result in job losses as it restructures the Liverpool container division following a “marked deterioration” in volume over the past few months. He claimed 132 workers were issued redundancy notices last week, putting them at risk of being fired.


A spokesperson for Peel Ports blamed a drop in container volume at Liverpool over the past few months for the impending job losses, although he did not provide any figures. The spokesperson said in a statement that the decision to start redundancies was “extremely regrettable but now unavoidable, given the economic backdrop.”


This was dismissed by the union, which said the threatened layoffs don’t make business sense given that the port wants to expand and has rejected previous redundancy proposals.


“It is clear that [Peel Ports] just want to avoid paying a fully affordable pay increase,” Morton said.


No consensus on inflation


The actual level of inflation is itself a divisive issue in an increasingly bitter dispute between Peel Ports and Unite the Union, which represents workers across several industries in the United Kingdom.


Unite estimates the current consumer price inflation rate at 12.3 percent, while Peel Ports says the official UK inflation rate is 8.2 percent.


The union has rejected Peel Ports’ offer of an average increase of 10.2 percent in basic pay. Unite has called for a 12.3 percent average increase in public statements, but a Peel Ports spokesperson said the union has demanded a 15.7 increase for its members.


“Unite, in talks last week, demanded a 15.7 percent pay rise, almost double the rate of inflation at the June pay anniversary review date, and refuses a tripartite meeting with the independent advisory, conciliation, and arbitration service [ACAS], which would support mediation between the parties,” the Peel Ports spokesperson told JOC.com Tuesday.


Longshore workers represented by Unite also held an eight-day strike at Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port, that ended earlier this week. The union rejected a pay offer of 7 percent from operator Hutchison Ports (UK), and further industrial action is expected.


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