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Strike On, Strike Off? Liverpool Port Dodges Bullet

The series of strikes hitting the Port of Liverpool in recent months has come to an end with the union and employer reaching a tentative agreement for workers. 

Peel Ports Group, which operates the port with Terminal Investments Limited, confirmed in a statement Tuesday it is “pleased” with the union-supported deal it reached. Unite the Union is expected to “fully recommend” the deal to members, the port operator said. 

A spokesperson for the union did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Sourcing Journal Tuesday. 

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although both sides publicly aired a disconnect over proposed pay. 

Peel Ports Group most recently said in an update late last month the union had rejected an 11 percent pay increase offer, which marked the sixth time the employer revised its proposal on wages. Peel Ports chief operating officer David Huck said at the time, the continued rejection on the part of the union and refusal to have workers vote on the proposals “is very telling.” 

Unite has said it was negotiating for not only increased pay taking into account inflation, but improved shift schedules and the implementation of a 2021 pay agreement. 

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It’s unclear if the new agreement addresses those two factors. 

“Unite will have a vote with the container operators later this week to formally accept the offer,” Peel Ports said. 

The agreement ends plans for a strike scheduled for Nov. 14 and raises the possibility of an end to disruptions at the port, which handles 75,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) each month. 

Peel Ports characterized the union’s strikes as “demolishing Liverpool’s maritime sector.” Huck had called the work stoppages “damaging” and said they impacted customers and regional businesses. 

Nearly 600 workers had been involved in the series of strikes beginning with a two-week stoppage that ended Oct. 3. That was followed by additional actions that began Oct. 11 and Oct. 24. 

Liverpool isn’t the only port seeing labor disruptions this year as employees seek pay in line with the work they did during the height of the pandemic.

Workers at the Port of Felixstowe, Britain’s largest port, had also walked off the job in August and September over a pay dispute with operator Hutchison Ports. Workers there are also represented by the Unite union.  

Stateside, West Coast dockworkers, represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), continue negotiations with employers for a new contract. Workers have been without a contract since July with pockets of slowdowns seen at some facilities in the Pacific Northwest, although both sides have repeatedly voiced their focus on staying at the negotiating table with no disruption to cargo movement.

Workers at the Port of Oakland, in a matter unrelated to the current round of collective bargaining, walked off the job last week over unpaid wages and the timeliness of their pay. 

The matter was a local issue for the Local 34 chapter of the ILWU and impacted the day shift before work resumed.