A ‘marked deterioration’ in container volumes is set to lead to job losses at the Port of Liverpool which is already seeing strike action by workers. Tony McDonough reports
Port of Liverpool owner Peel Ports Group says a “marked deterioration” in container volumes means it will have to cut jobs.
Peel Ports says the latest move was “extremely regrettable but now unavoidable, given the economic backdrop”. Next week it will initiate a redundancy consultation process in its containers division.
Hundreds of dock workers at the port are already in dispute with the Peel Ports over its latest pay offer. In August 88% of dockside workers took part in a strike ballot organised by Unite the union. It saw 99% vote in favour of strike action.
On October 3 560 Mersey Docks and Harbour Company Workers returned to work after a two-week walkout. However, they will walk out again from October 11 to October 17. And this time they will be joined by senior control room operators, taking the total number taking action to more than 600.
Peel Ports said on Friday it had offered workers a 10.2% increase in basic pay. However, with the cost of living soaring, Unite is pushing for a higher offer. This latest announcement by the company is likely to strain relations further.
It says the unitised cargo market is experiencing a significant decline in volume due to several factors which underpin the bleak outlook on the global economy. These include rising interest rates, higher energy costs and weakening consumer demand for manufactured and imported goods.
Container volumes through UK ports fell by 17%. It is expected the current economic challenges may lead to a much higher fall in disposable income over the coming 12 to 24 months.
A spokesperson for Peel Ports Group said: “We have seen an increasing decline in the movement of containerised cargo for Liverpool over the last few months, in line with industry figures which show a 4.6% drop in volume across Europe.
“This, together with a recent sharp fall in container vessel charter rates of around 50%, indicate a rapid decline in throughput is expected over the next few months.
“While this is an extremely regrettable situation, as a responsible employer, we need to restructure now in order to minimise the potential greater impact the downturn in container business will have on jobs, further down the line.
“We are exploring a number of different options to try and protect as many jobs as possible, including redeploying staff in other areas of the business which are less exposed to the economic crisis.
“Our aim is to grow the business further and create more jobs, not lose them. Every effort is being made to safeguard and protect as many jobs as possible and keep redundancies to a minimum.”