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Peel Ports, Unite unable to find common ground, another strike action begins in Liverpool

Negotiation discussions between Peel Ports, owner and operator of the Port of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, and the British trade union Unite have ended one more time in chaos and another two-week strike has begun today (24 October).

On the one hand, the port owner claims that Unite has rejected an improved pay offer, while on the other hand, the union says that Peel Ports’ board continues to refuse to give workers a decent pay rise whilst the company's profits soar.

Peel Ports chief operating officer, David Huck stated, "It’s hugely disappointing that Unite has staged yet another outdated show-of-hands mass meeting which has, very predictably, failed to support our improved 11% pay offer. This is the highest percentage increase of any port group in the UK by far and would see average annual pay rise to £43,275 (around US$49,000)."

Huck said that Peel Ports has improved its offer six times and Unite has consistently blocked the involvement of Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to help arbitrate.

ACAS is a non-departmental public body of the UK Government with the purpose to improve organisations and working life through the promotion and facilitation of strong industrial relations practices.

"The fact that they [Unite] have refused to give all employees an independent postal vote on this 11% offer, free from the pressures and undue influence of an outdated show-of-hands, is very telling. Our feedback from many, many workers is that they are in favour of accepting but are too reluctant to do so in a mass meeting," pointed out Huck.

On the other hand, Unite's story is different. In its latest announcement, the British union said it has in good faith been at the negotiating table with management to thrash out a deal, which the company has reneged on.

"It was believed the deal would be accepted by the workforce. However, any chance to halt the industrial action has been lost after Peel Ports’ board intervened to stop the deal, which had been agreed in principle, from going ahead," noted the union.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham confirmed, "The Unite team negotiated in good faith with Peel Ports. But the talks ended in farce, with the deal agreed between Unite and senior management being pulled by the board. Strike action by our members and with the full support of Unite will go ahead."

He went on to add that "Peel Ports’ untrustworthy behaviour and its attempts to threaten the workforce are only escalating the dispute."

Huck said that the current strike will cause further operational challenges and damage to the port customers and the Liverpool City Region, while it may threaten even more jobs at the port. "It’s wholly irresponsible of Unite to prolong this self-defeating strike. They should have the courage to put this to members and let them have their say. It’s the only way to safeguard as many jobs as possible and implement the most generous pay increase in the industry," he highlighted.

Unite stated that since the strikes at the docks began on 19 September, the workers have been subject to job threats despite plans to expand the port and untrue statements exaggerating the amount the company has offered as a pay increase.

"Our members resolve is only increasing with every new low the company sinks to. They know Peel Ports can afford to pay a proper increase and that is what has to happen,” noted Unite national officer, Robert Morton.

Antonis Karamalegkos
Managing Editor

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