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Liverpool dock strike enters second phase

7 October 2022

Alexandra Dock, Bootle, part of the huge Liverpool dock system. Photo N. Johannes (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Over 560 dockers at the Port of Liverpool – Britain’s fourth-largest handler of seaborne trade – have just completed the first two-week planned phase of their strike action over pay and conditions. Now more workers are set to join in with fresh action from 11 to 17 October.

The employer, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, had offered a pay rise of around 8.3 per cent. The Unite union members at the port rejected the rise, saying it represented a pay cut given the current soaring rate of inflation.

With no fresh offer on the table, striking port operatives and engineers are to be joined from 11 October by control room operators (including seniors) after this group of workers also voted in favour of striking. The port’s dock masters, shift managers and vessel traffic services officers are also to be balloted in a further potentially significant intensification of the action.

The dispute is about the poor pay offer, but also includes the employer having failed to fully honour a 2021 agreement which committed the company to hold a pay review (which last happened in 1995) and improve shift rotas. 

There are reports, too, that dockers in Southampton have been refusing to handle cargo diverted from Liverpool.


Mersey Docks and Harbour Company made profits of over £30 million in 2021. It’s part of Peel Ports, owned by the Peel Group – based in the Isle of Man tax haven. The group’s super-rich majority owner is John Whittaker, said to be worth around £1.4 billion. 

Peel Ports, which among other assets owns the Manchester Ship Canal, has paid over £300 million to shareholders in the past five years. Its highest paid director received £4.5 million in 2021 – a massive hike from £1.6 million in 2020 (obviously not enough for him!).

It’s not surprising that the dockers feel that the company can easily afford to pay them a decent rise. As Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Workers across the country are sick to death of being told to take a hit on their wages and living standards while employer after employer is guilty of rampant profiteering.”