UNITE is warning that the refusal of the nation’s port employers to make fair pay offers to their workers could result in a national dock strike, causing disruption to the nation’s supply chain.
Over a 1,000 dockers are currently preparing to be balloted for strike action.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘There is absolutely no way that Unite is going to allow our members to suffer real terms pay cuts. Where employers are making huge profits workers deserve a decent deal and Unite will organise to achieve that.’
Industrial relations are being further damaged because the majority of docks have never been so busy. Ports are struggling to cope with demand due to a combination of the HGV driver shortage, Brexit and the effect of the pandemic on shipping.
Dockers worked throughout the pandemic to keep supplies coming into the UK. At the time, they were hailed as heroes but now they are facing pay cuts.
Industrial action is likely to affect Forth Ports, PD Ports and Peel Ports, which operates the port of Liverpool.
Forth Ports, which operates Tilbury, Grangemouth, Leith (Edinburgh), Dundee, Rosyth and Fife, is attempting to impose a pay freeze for 2021.
Workers at PD Ports have been offered 1.35 per cent rise. The company operates ports along the east coast of England including Felixstowe, which accounts for over a third of the containers entering the UK and is currently experiencing severe congestion. Other ports in the group include Teesport, Hull and Immingham.
Workers at the port of Liverpool have rejected a 3 per cent pay increase, which is a real terms pay cut when the RPI inflation rate is currently at 4.8 per cent.
Unite national officer Bobby Morton said: ‘Our members are simply seeking a fair rate of pay for a hard day’s work.
‘Our members have never been so busy with their work being disrupted and made more difficult by the shortage of lorry drivers, Brexit and the effect of the pandemic on shipping routes.
‘Employers can avoid industrial action by returning to negotiations and making a fair pay offer to our members.’
If employers don’t make rapid improvements in pay offers then Unite says it will move swiftly towards full industrial action ballots and strikes could begin before the end of the year.