Unite welcomes Woolwich Ferry takeover by Transport for London

Unite has welcomed the decision by Transport for London (TfL) to take over the running of the Woolwich Ferry, used by an estimated 2.6 million passengers annually, by the end of 2020.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, represents 56 workers currently embroiled in a dispute with Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd which holds the contract.

Ahead of the current contract ending on 31 March, mayor of London Sadiq Khan asked TfL to review its options for the management of the ferry. The transition to an in-house operation is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Unite warmly welcomes the decision that will see the vital Woolwich Ferry being brought back under the control of Transport for London (TfL) by the end of the year.

“We have been campaigning for this contract to come back under TfL’s auspices for some time and today’s announcement is a victory for our campaign.”

“The Briggs Marine contract has been dogged by continuing controversy and atrocious employment relations.”

“We are glad that TfL has concluded that taking the operation and maintenance in-house would ensure a higher level of control and improve services to the thousands of Londoners that use the service every day.”

The Woolwich Ferry workforce is set to hold two 24 hour strikes, on Friday 28 February and Friday 13 March, in the latest dispute which centres on the failure to pay the London living wage (currently £10.75 an hour) on basic pay; the imposition of changes to overtime and shift working; failure to adhere to the agreed job evaluation scheme; and failure to deal with equality issues.

Onay Kasab added: “We recognise that we are now entering into a new industrial relations’ environment with this news today and we are prepared to suspend these two strikes if TfL engages directly with us to resolve these outstanding issues.”

“We are keen to engage constructively with TfL management so that the Woolwich Ferry can be operated in a fashion that truly benefits the users and the workforce.”

Approximately 20,000 vehicles per 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 use the ferry annually.

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