On the Picket Line

Dockworkers in UK strike, win international solidarity

By Hugo Wils
October 10, 2022

LIVERPOOL, England — Over 600 dockworkers, organized by the Unite union, went on strike here Sept. 20. Mass, lively pickets have been set up in front of the port.

The port workers and maintenance engineers rejected a pay increase of 8.3% and a signing bonus of 750 pounds ($813). This would have meant a cut in real wages, as inflation in the U.K. has been hitting double digits this year.

“As a union, we will never recommend anything below inflation,” senior union steward John Lynch told the Militant. Peel Ports Group bosses “claim we’re on 43,000 pounds per year” to discredit the strike, he said, but the basic pay is actually 22,000 pounds, which can go up to 32,000 pounds over time.

Solidarity has come from dockworkers’ unions in Portugal, Denmark and the United States, and representatives have visited the pickets. At a Sept. 24 solidarity rally on the picket line, a number of trade unionists spoke in support. “I’ve come here with a group from Cammell Laird,” said Unite regional officer Ross Quinn, who was part of a strike at the shipbuilder in 2018. “We’ve raised 1,000 pounds from Unite and GMB members there. Pictures of Liverpool dockers [on strike] are spreading right across the labor movement.”

Ken Riley and Mark Bass, representing the U.S. International Longshoremen’s Association, brought their union’s support. “International solidarity is the only way forward, especially for dockworkers. We have to be in lockstep with each other as we face the power of global shipping companies and governments,” Riley, international vice president of the ILA, told the Militant.

“We can’t forget the fight by Liverpool dockers in 1995, our slogan is: ‘You’ll never walk alone again,’” Riley said, referring to the 1995-98 port bosses’ lockout of dockworkers here, after workers refused to cross the picket line of 80 dockworkers fired at the Torside company. The strike ended in a 28,000 pound settlement for the locked-out workers, but none won their jobs back.

The ILA delegation plans to go to Felixstowe next, where dockworkers will begin a second round of strike action Sept. 27. Workers at the two ports will be on strike simultaneously for a week. “This is unprecedented, 60% to 65% of imports and exports will grind to a halt,” Lynch said.