Woolwich ferry staff vote almost unanimously for strike action in May and June over staff victimisation

Woolwich Ferry workers have overwhelmingly voted to strike over a victimised union rep.

Workers operating the Woolwich Ferry, now run by Transport for London (TfL), will strike for eight days in May and June, Unite the union announced today (Friday 30 April).

Unite’s 57 members have voted by an overwhelming 97 per cent for strike action which will take place on 14, 24, 28 May and 1, 4, 7, 11, 21 June.

The ferry has been so dogged by poor employment relations in recent years – leading to TfL taking over its operation from the discredited Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd – that the latest episode has been dubbed the ‘Groundhog Day’ dispute.

Besides the victimisation issue, the staff are angry at the failure to agree a new pay and reward scheme; the excessive use of agency staff; and the failure to provide adequate health and safety training to new employees.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “It is a sad indictment of the TfL bosses that they seem to be following the same course as Briggs Marine Contractors which meted out some appalling employment practices to the workforce in the recent past.

“Our members have returned an overwhelming mandate for strike action at the Woolwich Ferry in support of their victimised shop steward and over a myriad of other employment issues.

“Hopefully, the ballot result will be a light bulb moment for TfL and the management can get employment relations back on an even keel before strike action begins. To that end, Unite’s door is open 24/7 for constructive talks to resolve all the outstanding issues.

“The strikes will cause disruption to car drivers and foot passengers as ferry traffic picks up with commuters returning to their workplaces in the capital following the easing of lockdown.”

A TfL spokesperson said: “We have reached out numerous times to Unite about their concerns, and urge them to call off their proposed strike action and instead work with us to resolve this issue.”

In the case of strike action, foot passengers would be able use the Woolwich Foot Tunnel or the DLR service between King George V and Woolwich Arsenal. Vehicle crossings at Dartford, Blackwall and Rotherhithe, remain open as normal.

Before the pandemic struck at the beginning of 2020 about 20,000 vehicles a week were using the free service across the Thames which opened in 1889, following the abolition of tolls across bridges to the west of London. Pre-Covid-19, an estimated 2.6 million passengers also used the ferry annually.

There has been a ferry in place at the site since the 14th century.

 


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