Relations between Port of Liverpool owner Peel Ports and Unite deteriorate as the union dismisses a claim by the company that workers are now demanding a 15.7% pay rise. Tony McDonough reports
A pay dispute between Port of Liverpool Peel Ports and Unite the union turned increasingly bitter on Monday with a second strike beginning on Tuesday.
On October 3, 560 Mersey Docks and Harbour Company Workers returned to work after a two-week walkout in the dispute over a pay rise. Tuesday’s walkout will last a week and dock workers will be joined by senior control room operators.
That will take the number of people striking to more than 600. Relations between the union and the company worsened on Friday when Peel Ports announced that a “marked deterioration” in container volumes means it will have to cut jobs at the port. 132 people have received redundancy notices.
In response Unite national office Robert Morton said: “These plans confirm that the company was never going to discuss pay in good faith. It was always intent on attacking the workforce to bolster profits. Unite stands firm in a dispute that is no longer solely about pay but is now about jobs as well.”
In August 88% of dockside workers took part in a strike ballot organised by Unite. It saw 99% vote in favour of strike action.
Peel Ports said it had offered workers a pay rise of 10.2%, above the CPI measure of inflation. However the union claims the offer is worth only around 8.3%. Unite adds that RPI inflation is running at 12.3% and therefore what is being offered is a real terms pay cut.
On Monday the company claimed Unite was now demanding a pay rise of 15.7% which the union says is not true. Unite has promised LBN a full statement shortly.
A spokesperson for Peel Ports, operator of the Port of Liverpool, said: “Unite continues to make unrealistic and unsustainable above-inflation pay demands, whilst declining a meeting with ACAS.
“We are concerned Unite has no interest in resolving matters through the collective bargaining arrangements we have in place or via an independent ballot, as it continues to push for more strikes.
“Our average 10.2% basic pay increase offered in talks last week represents an industry leading deal and is 2% above inflation, at the time of the pay anniversary and review in June.
“Ongoing strikes are hurting Liverpool city region’s businesses and prospects for future growth and jobs, at a time of economic uncertainty and volatile market conditions. We call on Unite to reconsider the greatly enhanced offer via an independent ballot, so we can bring these damaging strikes to an end.”
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, who visited workers on the picket line during the first walkout, said of the plan to cut jobs: “This is a cynical attempt to intimidate workers. It will not work.
“Maybe if they spent more time solving the dispute, as opposed to attacking their own workforce, the employers would be in a better place.”