Woolwich Ferry staff to strike on 19 December in pay dispute

Woolwich Ferry workers will stage a 24-hour strike on Thursday 19 December in a pay dispute.

56 workers who operate the Woolwich Ferry, used by approximately 20,000 vehicles a week, voted unanimously for strike action.

The workers are members of Unite, Britain and Ireland’s biggest union. Unite said that there has been a long history of poor managerial practice by Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd, which runs the service on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) and employs the 56 workers.

Two years ago, there was an acrimonious and long-running dispute over a bullying culture and health & safety issues.

The latest dispute surrounds 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.

This summer, there were 10 days of strikes on similar issues without resolution. Unite re-balloted its members and, as a result, they will now hold strike action on 19 December.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “It is an understatement to say the management at Briggs Marine Contractors has a very poor record when it comes to employment relations over a number of years.

“Unfortunately, bad employment practice seems endemic within the management team as they continue to ignore previous agreements on job evaluation and equalities, and they ‘slice and dice’ the pay of an already low-paid workforce.

“The most recent example is the failure to pay the London Living Wage, although the company claims that, if you take into account overtime and weekend working, it is doing so.

“However, the correct way to calculate paying the London Living Wage is with basic pay and you don’t include additional payments, such as overtime, which the employer is doing.

“Unite will not stand by and allow this horror show of employment practice to continue. It is high time that Transport for London reviewed its contract with this notorious employer.

“Unfortunately, it is the travelling public who will bear the brunt of the company’s unacceptable behaviour to its staff.”

An estimated 2.6 million passengers use the free ferry service annually, which opened in 1889, following the abolition of tolls across bridges to the west of London. Historically, there has been a ferry in place at the site since the 14th century.