LONDON — More than 500 dockworkers at Liverpool’s Peel Port voted on Monday to strike after rejecting a seven percent pay hike.
The strike vote is the second in almost as many weeks by stevedores who handle shipping containers at major ports central to Britain’s international trade — raising concerns about the impact on U.K. supply chains.
“The responsibility for Liverpool container docks grinding to a halt will lie firmly with MDHC [Mersey Docks and Harbour Company],” said Steven Gerrard, a regional officer for the union Unite.
The union represents dockworkers in their dispute with MDHC container services, part of Peel Group, owned by British tycoon John Whittaker and investment fund Australian Super.
“Our members are struggling with rising living costs,” said Gerrard, calling the firm’s offer “completely inadequate” and urging bosses “to come back with a deal that meets our members’ expectations.”
Workers are protesting pay rates that have not improved since 2018 and are calling for increases in line with the retail prices index inflation rate (RPI) of 11.7 percent, which includes mortgage interest payments.
Some 99 percent of workers in an 88 percent turnout voted for industrial action. They have not yet set a date to picket.
Last week, pay negotiations with nearly 1,900 dockworkers at Felixstowe port also fell apart. Felixstowe dockworkers are expected to walk off the job for eight days starting this weekend.
Liverpool’s Peel Port is Britain’s fourth largest port by volume. A strike there will “remove an alternative port for volumes meant for Felixstowe,” said Judah Levine, head of research at global freight booking and data platform Freightos.
Although ports at London Gateway and Southampton are the more likely alternatives, Levine said, “any diversions cause headaches and complicate things for ocean carriers and importers.”
Although Peel Port dockworkers haven’t scheduled their industrial action, Bobby Morton, a Unite union rep for Felixstowe warned: “If the dispute goes on for any length of time, then you would have the two largest ports in the U.K. on strike with nothing moving through them.”