Dockworkers employed at MDHC container services, part of Peel Ports, in Liverpool are to be balloted for industrial action in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Dock facing standstill

If the 500 plus workers, who are members of Unite, the UKs leading union, vote for strike action then the container port, which is one of the largest in the country, will come to a virtual standstill.

The dispute is a result of MDHC failing to make a decent pay increase.

Below inflation

The final’ offer of seven per cent is far below the current real inflation rate (RPI) of 11.7 per cent. In addition, there are issues around agency rates of pay, which have not been improved since 2018, shift rotas and the bonus payment which was agreed in the 2021 pay deal.

MDHC is part of the Peel Group. Its majority owner is UK tycoon John Whittaker, whose personal fortune is more than £1.4 billion. The Peel Group is based in the Isle of Man tax haven, where Mr Whittaker also resides. The Australian investment fund, Australian Super, is the second largest investor.

Decent wage deal needed

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: MDHC made more than £30 million profits last year so the money is there to offer a decent wage deal. However MDHC and its owner Peel Ports seem to have different priorities - keeping its cash for the benefit of tax-exiled billionaires and Australian investment funds while offering their workers a pay cut. That is not acceptable. We know the money is there and the dock workers who made that money, deserve a decent share of the pie.

Unite is wholly dedicated to prioritising the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and it will be giving our dock workers in Liverpool its complete support until this dispute is resolved.”

Ballot timetable

The industrial action ballot will open on Monday 25 July and close on Monday 15 August. If the workers vote for strike action, stoppages could begin at the end of August.

The workers, who kept essential logistic supplies such as foods and medicines flowing during the pandemic, undertake all forms of port operations and are fully involved in the loading and unloading of the containers. Industrial action would have a severe impact on both shipping and road transport in Liverpool and the surrounding areas.

The company is extremely profitable as volumes have increased since the pandemic and the company made a £32 million profit last year.

Severe disruption

Unite regional officer Steven Gerrard said: Strike action will inevitably severely affect shipping and road transport as well as creating shortages in supply chains but this dispute is entirely of Peel Ports own making. Unite has held extensive negotiations with the company but it has refused to address members' concerns. 

Even at this late stage strike action can still be avoided by the company returning to negotiations and making an offer that meets our members' expectations on pay and the other areas of concern.”


 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.