From 14 to 18% pay rises: Liverpool dockers’ pay strategy

When the British trade union Unite the Union announced in September that it was consulting workers in Liverpool’s docks to organize a strike, few believed it. Admittedly, anger was very much present at the port with inflation at more than 12% and an expected increase in gas. But the fear of a lockout ran through people’s minds.

Finally, proud Liverpool mobilized him who had stood up to Margaret Thatcher despite blood and tears. An entire city around its workers. A strike the likes of which we had not seen since 1995, which began on September 19. Five solid weeks in the fall of 2022, a win at stake. There will not be a trophy, like for football, that we can show off in pubs. But intense and proud memories.

Efforts with a well-thought-out strategy

Seven weeks ago, when they heard that their employer, Mersey Docks and Harbor Company (MDHC), which is owned by Britain’s second largest port operator, Peel Ports Group, refused to accept their application for a pay rise, their blood boiled. They stopped work and set up strikes with a well thought out strategy called “strike plus”. They had two weeks off in September, returned to work for a week, another week off and then returned to work. They were on strike for two more weeks and returned to work last week.

They finally won pay rises of between 14% and 18% and more, depending on the category, after a deal was struck by dockers’ union Unite, while Peel Ports bosses initially did not offer 5%. At the port on Thursday, about 600 workers voted overwhelmingly in favor (98%) of the deal negotiated earlier this week.

Mersey Docks and Harbor Company, owner of the Liverpool site, made a profit of £30m. (€34m) in 2021 after workers continued their business during the pandemic. Its parent company, Peel Group, is based in the tax haven of the Isle of Man and is owned by tycoon John Whitaker, who is worth more than £1.4bn. worth (€1.6 billion).

Felixstowe Docks, another major site, made a profit of £61m in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. The international conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd, which owns them, gave 99 million pounds sterling (113 million euros) to shareholders.

An example for workers all over the world

This is a very important victory for the members of Unite at the Port of Liverpool. Our members’ determination on the line and Unite’s ‘strike more’ strategy have forced the company to use common sense and do the right thing.”greeted Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite the Union, before warning bosses: “Make no mistake, Unite will continue to fight for jobs, pay and working conditions and defend workers tirelessly.”

Unite representative Steven Saunderson explained: “As the end of the year celebrations approached, people were starting to worry. But now we are already getting our wages back, around £1,500 guaranteed before Christmas. All boys and girls deserve it. This place was completely shut down. Nothing moved. This is in honor of all our members. It was their pressure that created the deal we got. » The trade union representative is pleased that the strikers “turned public opinion” and received international support. “People have realized that we’re not greedy, but normal working-class people who are tired of being treated like shit. »

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the International Dockworkers’ Council (IDC) hailed the Liverpool workers’ victory. “the courage and commitment of dock workers to stand up and fight against an employer that seemed to care more about its shareholders than its workers – during the worst cost of living crisis in recent history – will inspire workers around the world to fight for wage justice and a decent standard of living”, insisted Paddy Crumlin, president of the ITF and a dockworker himself. In a context of worsening competition, this success in Liverpool will undoubtedly increase the strength of the other professional categories in the UK.“We will go out in the next few months and support others, striking at Jacob’s (a biscuit factory in Liverpool where 750 employees have stopped working – ed. note), nurses and railway workers on the RMT”, warns Steven Saunderson.

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