Unite, the UK’s leading union, is warning that the refusal of the nation’s port employers to make fair pay offers to their workers could result in industrial action, causing disruption to the nation’s supply chain.

Ballot preparation 

Over a 1,000 dock workers are currently preparing to be balloted for strike action.

The workers are incensed that their employers are seeking to impose pay freezes or proposing pay increases that are so far below the current inflation rate it amounts to a pay cut in real terms.

Essential role

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:“Dockers in the UK play an absolutely essential role in ensuring that we all receive the goods we need, including medicines and keeping food on supermarket shelves.

“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.”

Congested docks

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

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.

Volume increase

It was recently revealed that PD Ports had seen their bulk cargo volume increase by 60 per cent in the past 12 months.

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.

Fair rate of pay

Unite national officer Bobby Morton said: “Our members are simply seeking a fair rate of pay for a hard days 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.”

Rapid improvements needed 

If employers don’t make rapid improvements in pay offers then Unite will move swiftly towards full industrial action ballots and strikes could begin before the end of the year.


During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.