Liverpool port strikes intensify

Senior staff join walkouts with fresh strikes over ‘hugely profitable’ MDHC’s below inflation pay offer

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Nearly 600 Liverpool port workers will take seven days of fresh strike action beginning on October 11 and ending on October 17, Unite said today (September 29).

As well as port operatives and engineers, who began two weeks of industrial action on September 19, senior control room operators and control room operators have now voted to join the strikes.

In addition, the port’s dock masters, shift managers and vessel traffic services officers are also preparing to be balloted for strike action. The combined impact of so many roles striking means the entire port will ‘literally become inoperable’.

The workers are angry at MDHC’s pay offer of around 8.3 per cent. With the real rate of inflation, RPI, at 12.3 per cent this is a pay cut.

The dispute is also over MDHC’s failure to honour the 2021 pay agreement. This includes the company not undertaking a promised pay review, which last happened in 1995, and failing to deliver on an agreement to improve shift rotas.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The anger amongst MDHC’s staff at the greed of this hugely profitable firm and its billionaire owner John Whittaker reaches from one end of the company to the other. Our members will not back down and neither will Unite. MDHC needs to keep its previous pay promises and put forward a proper pay rise now.”

MDHC, which made more than £30 million in profits in 2021, is part of Peel Ports and is owned by the Peel Group ­– based in the Isle of Man tax haven. Some of the Liverpool port dock masters are employed under Peel Ports Investments.

The group’s majority owner is UK tycoon John Whittaker, who is worth more than £1.4 billion and is also based in the Isle of Man. The Australian investment fund, Australian Super, is the group’s second largest investor.

Peel Ports, which is also the port authority for the Manchester Ship Canal, the River Medway, parts of the River Clyde, 12 Quays at Birkenhead and Heysham Port, has paid out around £300 million in dividends over the past five years.

The highest paid Peel Ports director received pay and benefits totalling £4.5 million in 2021 – a massive increase from £1.6 million in 2020.

Unite national coordinator for free ports Steven Gerrard added, “The disruption caused to the port of Liverpool and the supply lines that depend on it is entirely the fault of MDHC and Peel Ports. If even more staff walk out over the company’s insufficient pay offer, the entire port will literally become inoperable. The company can afford to put forward an offer our members can accept and must do so.”

By Ryan Fletcher

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