UPDATED: Liverpool MP accuses police of overreacting on DHL picket line

Police at the DHL picket line. Image from @Quinny_EFC

UPDATED December 23 12.45pm

Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne has accused the police of over-reacting when they intervened on the DHL picket lines this morning.

Unite regional officer Kenny Rowe was threatened with arrest shortly before 6am, in an incident witnessed by the Labour MP.

He told union-news.co.uk: “The police over reacted when the pickets wanted to engage with drivers coming in to outline what the dispute was concerning and ask for solidarity. They were shut down which was unnecessary and counterproductive.

UPDATED December 23 10.15am

Unite regional officer Kenny Rowe was this morning threatened with arrest as he visited the DHL picket line in Liverpool.

Rowe told union-news.co.uk he had pulled over to the side of the road to talk to Unite members shortly before 6am when he was approached by police officers who warned him he would be be arrested for careless driving.

Rowe said: “We’ve all witnessed the long arm of the law used in a rather aggressive way. These guys are from the force based over the water on the Wirral. They’ve been particularly heavy-handed in our view.

“The other guys have let us have a peaceful demonstration, but the police that have come today have put a stop to all of that, waving the wagons on. We’re obviously not confronting anyone and we’re particularly perturbed about the tactics and their denial of our rights of a peaceful protest.

“From the minute I turned up at the site shorty before 6am, there was a verbal altercation between the strikers and the police, something that hasn’t happened since we’ve been on strike from Saturday morning

“They were pushing people back on the side of the road, they threatened to arrest me for careless driving. I was doing less than 2mph.  It was laughable. I just pulled up and was talking to the pickets. The police today were totally different from other police. They are obviously there for a reason. 

“They were there waiting for us. They’re facilitating DHL. They tell us they’re impartial but they’re facilitating the employer.”

UPDATED December 23 0919

Police have this morning returned to Unite’s DHL picket line in Liverpool.

Unite regional officer Ross Quinn tweeted at 8.06am: “Came to show solidarity on #DHL picket line this morning, the police are actively trying undermine the workers struggle, another example of why some many people are in hardship when employers can just turn police out against workers”

Logistics giant DHL has been accused of wasting police time after claims that it called out hard-pressed officers on spurious grounds to the peaceful picket line of striking Liverpool delivery drivers and warehouse staff.

Unite said that bosses at DHL Supply Chain had called out police at least ten times with multiple vehicles to the Portal Way site where its 120 members have been on strike over pay since Saturday.

Unite said the company had been abusing already stretched police resources which could be better used ensuring that COVID-19 regulations were adhered to and tackling the high crime levels in Croxteth area where the delivery centre is situated.

In November, striking workers at Leeds-based Optare bus manufacturer were moved on by the police, prompting Unite legal action that forced the government to issue guidance to police forces that workers can undertake socially distanced picketing during lockdown, as it is covered by the exception on the right to go to work.

Unite regional officer Kenny Rowe said: “DHL bosses are wasting police time big-time. The management has called the police to an entirely peaceful picket line on at least 10 occasions since the strike started on Saturday.

“We have had visits by Merseyside Police with up to three police vehicles at a time. While relations are cordial and respectful, I am sure the people of Liverpool would question the misuse of resources sparked by DHL.

“DHL is abusing scarce police resources when the officers are under pressure over implementing Covid-19 regulations and the Croxeth area is suffering high levels of crime.

“DHL should respect the government guidelines issued to police forces last month that striking workers can undertake socially distanced picketing during lockdown, as it is covered by the exception on the right to go to work.

“DHL is flagrantly relying on police to try to break a lawful dispute. Of course, feelings are high and nobody wants to be on strike. However, I believe DHL has called the police without due cause and have alleged incidents that simply have not occurred in an attempt to discredit a peaceful picket line.

“It is a disgrace that police are used in this way by a company which thinks it can do what it likes to its low-paid workers – and misuses the police and taxpayers’ money in this cavalier fashion.

“This is in no way a criticism of Merseyside Police, but a strong condemnation of the underhand tactics practised by DHL. We urge DHL to get around the table for constructive talks, rather than making spurious calls to the police.”

The 120 workers at the profitable Liverpool site, who undertake the Burton Biscuits (including Jammie Dodgers) and AB World Foods delivery contract, are striking in a dispute over low pay, victimisation of workers and the complete collapse of industrial relations.

Unite has announced eight 24-hours of strike action between December 19 and January 5.

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