Woolwich Ferry staff to strike for 10 days in Groundhog Day safety dispute, says Unite
- Monday 29 April 2019
Workers, who operate the Woolwich Ferry used by an estimated 2.6 million passengers a year, are to strike for 10 days in a dispute over pay, health & safety, and lack of staffing.
The 31 workers, members of Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, who are employed by Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd, voted unanimously for strike action
The 24 hour strike dates are: 17, 20, 24, 28, and 31 May. This will be followed by five days in June on 3, 7, 10, 14 and 17 June. All stoppages will start at 00:01.
The key issues in the dispute are the refusal to grant a six per cent pay increase for the year starting January 2019; the imposition of new duties; failure to deal with safety concerns; and lack of an adequate number of staff to operate the service.
Two years ago, there was an acrimonious and long-running dispute at the ferry with the same employer, which runs the service on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), over a bullying culture and health & safety issues.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The travelling public, who use the ferry, may well think Groundhog Day has arrived with yet another dispute with the management at Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd.
“A new service was launched earlier this year and the current dispute follows a restructuring which means fewer staff operating the ferry.
“It also results in significantly less pay for our members as more staff are on a shift system, so overtime is no longer payable, hence the six per cent claim for a hike in basic pay.
“We also have serious safety concerns. Since the new boats arrived in January 2019 the emergency diesel fire pumps have not worked on both vessels.
“The ferries do have backup electric fire pumps. However, if there was a blackout or the service were to lose electrical power, which can happen, then there would be potential dangers to passengers and staff, as there would be no working fire extinguishers.
“I think the public have every reason to be concerned at fewer staff operating the ferry as this raises, in our view, serious health & safety issues.
“There is still time for the management to enter into a constructive dialogue with Unite before the strikes start on 17 May and we would urge the company to do so urgently.”
About 20,000 vehicles a week use the free service across the Thames which opened in 1889, following the abolition of tolls across bridges to the west of London. An estimated 2.6 million passengers also use the ferry annually.
There has been a ferry in place at the site since the 14th century.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.