‘They’ve tried everything else’ - hundreds of Liverpool dock workers have walked out in a dispute over pay

As inflation soars and the cost of living crisis takes hold, dock workers are the latest in the region to walk out.

Hundreds of dock workers have walked out in a dispute over pay. Members of Unite at the Port of Liverpool say the pay rise offered is a real-term pay cut because of the soaring rate of inflation and argue that the port's owners could afford a higher increase.

More than 560 port operatives and maintenance engineers employed by Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC) are taking two weeks of strike action that will end on October 3.

The Peel Ports Group, which operates the port, said workers had rejected an offer of an 8.3% pay rise, enhanced with a one-off payment of £750.

Unite the Union says with the real rate of inflation at 12.3%, the pay offer is a pay cut.

What Unite have said

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "It's really simple. It's a case of fairness and what's fair. This employer has made £141 million in profit, and they're asking these workers to take a pay cut. That is totally unfair.

“So, I'm standing with them on strike for pay, on strike for their families to make sure that they can have a decent pay rise.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham speaking at the Port of Liverpool.

"No worker wants to take strike action. It's very disruptive. It's a big thing to do. So, when they make the decision to strike, you know that this has now come to the end of the line.

“They've tried everything else. They've tried to get the employer to see sense, but unfortunately, weighted arguments don't move the employer. So, therefore the negotiations seem to have come to a standstill."

As inflation soars and the cost of living crisis takes hold, these workers are the latest in the region to walk out.

What the port owners have said

MDHC is owned by the Peel Group, Chief Operating Officer David Huck, 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 which represents a 10% average increase in annual pay.

Dock workers on strike at the Port of Liverpool

"The Port of Liverpool is a major employer in the Liverpool City Region. We have invested more than £1.2b over the last decade, transforming the prosperity of the region, creating over 900 new skilled jobs and, in turn, supporting over 7,200 additional local jobs in the supply chain.

"We urge the union to work with us at the negotiating table so together we can find a resolution."

The company said it has also made a commitment to a shift pattern change that will result in a 25% reduction in night shift working.

The average salary for container operatives would increase to around £43,000 a year, significantly above the Liverpool City Region and national average, it added.

What impact will the strike have?

The Port of Liverpool operates two container terminals, the Royal Seaforth Container Terminal (RSCT) and Liverpool2.

RSCT has connections to a range of countries including, Canada, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus and Turkey, as well as feeder services connecting Liverpool to India, Africa, South America and the Far East.

The Port of Liverpool. Photo: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Liverpool 2 is one of the most operationally efficient and modern terminals in Northern Europe, capable of accommodating some of the world’s largest container vessels.

A total of 845 people work in the Port of Liverpool’s containers division, which handled approximately 525,000 containers in 2021.

The goods inside the containers were distributed all around the world and included imports and exports, such as retail and industrial products.