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Pay Dispute Erupts in Second Liverpool Port Strike

A second strike has hit the Port of Liverpool as workers continue to clash with employers over pay, raising concerns of continued regional cargo congestion. 

An estimated 600 workers represented by the Unite union are participating in a walkout stretching from Tuesday through Oct. 17. The work stoppage stems from a dispute over pay in which workers are demanding increases to match the real inflation rate, which the union cited as 12.3 percent. Last week, the port operator said the union asked for a 15.7 percent increase. 

The employer’s offer stands at a 10.2 percent average increase in basic pay. 

The strike follows notices sent to 132 workers by Peel Ports Group, operator of the Port of Liverpool among other area ports, that their jobs have been made redundant.  

Unite criticized the move as having no basis in the port’s business strategy, particularly as it looks to expand and describes the notices as means “to intimidate workers taking lawful industrial action in a long-running pay dispute.” 

The union contends the employer has not reviewed wages or improved shift scheduling, which it said are part of the 2021 contract. 

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“Rather than enter into sensible negotiations, Peel Ports is making yet another cynical attempt to intimidate its workers,” said Bobby Morton, Unite national officer, in a statement Monday. “It is clear that they just want to avoid paying a fully affordable pay increase.” 

The latest action follows a two-week strike that ended Oct. 3

Peel Ports has said workers have seen pay increases annually for more than 10 years and has adjusted scheduling in a way that’s expected to reduce night work by about 25 percent. 

A Peel Ports spokesperson called the union’s demands “unrealistic and unsustainable.” 

“We are concerned Unite have no interest in resolving matters through collective bargaining arrangements we have in place or via an independent ballot, as it continues to push for more strikes,” the port operator spokesperson said. 

Liverpool’s second strike comes as workers at the Port of Felixstowe, the U.K.’s largest port, ended an eight-day strike last Wednesday involving more than 1,900 workers. The work stoppage followed a vote in which about 82 percent of workers rejected a contract that included a 7 percent pay increase. 

Strikes can inflate total ocean transport transit times by 15 percent to 50 percent, according to supply chain technology firm FourKites

Maritime research and consulting firm Drewry said Tuesday disruption in the U.K. container market is expected through the rest of the year as the region climbs out of a backlog created by the recently ended strike at Felixstowe and the current Liverpool work stoppage. Strikes at ports in Germany earlier in the summer have also hampered regional container trade, it said, causing ocean liners to re-route cargo and ship waiting times to rise. 

Peel Ports cited declining container volumes amid growing economic uncertainty as being further exacerbated by the strikes. 

The Peel Ports spokesperson, reached Tuesday, declined to say how container movement is specifically being affected at Liverpool and if a contingency plan for operations has been put in place. 

“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,” the port said in its prepared statement.