The port of Liverpool said strike action among staff in a row over pay would be “bad news” for businesses relying on the container terminal, with the impact felt for months to come.

It was responding to a recent ballot among port operatives, with Unite saying 99% voted to strike over an “inadequate 7% pay offer”.

The union said strike action would bring Liverpool port, owned by Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC) “grinding to a halt”.

Unite has also opened a separate ballot for MDHC maintenance engineers over the same pay offer; this is due to close on 24 August.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “What’s happening at MDHC is another example of why workers in this country have had enough.

“Once again, a profitable company controlled by a tax-exiled billionaire is refusing to give its workers a cost-of-living pay rise.

“Our members at MDHC have Unite’s complete backing and support in these strikes for a fair pay rise.”

However, Richard Mitchell, port director at Liverpool, said the 7% offer was among other benefits already offered to staff: “We fully appreciate our colleagues’ concerns on the rising cost of living."

“Our offer of 7% is on top of a rise of 4.5% last year and includes other improvements to shifts, sick pay and pensions, which further complements a decade of industry leading pay awards."

“We’ve recruited an additional 150 staff for Port of Liverpool container operations over the last 12 months, investing significantly in training and safety, and today Peel Ports’ Port Operatives earn about 20% more than the Liverpool city region average salary,” he added. “We urge Unite the union to keep talking with us so together we can find a resolution to avoid action that will be bad news for the sector, businesses and families, with the effects being felt for many months to come, at a time when container volume demand has started to reduce.”