Woolwich Ferry workers to stage two 24 hour strikes in pay dispute

Woolwich Ferry workers will stage two 24 hour strikes in their continuing pay dispute with ‘one of the worst employers in London’.

The 56 workers, members of Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, who are employed by Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd, voted unanimously for strike action and have already held a day’s strike on 19 December

Woolwich Ferry is used by an estimated 2.6 million passengers a year and passengers will now face further disruption when the workforce holds two 24 hour strikes, starting at 00:01 on Friday 28 February and then on Friday 13 March.

Unite reiterated today (Monday 27 January) that there has been a long history of poor managerial practice by the company with the latest dispute centred 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.

There were 10 days of strikes on similar issues last summer, but that failed to bring a resolution. Unite re-balloted its members in the autumn.

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: “It is an understatement to say the management at Briggs Marine Contractors has a dismal record when it comes to employment relations over a number of years.

“The bosses are hunkered down in their bunker and don’t wish to change their attitude to a more progressive and modern way of conducting employment relations. This company must be a firm favourite to be one of the worst employers in London.

“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 of 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 continuing horror show of employment practice to continue. We are calling on Transport for London to review 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.”

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.

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