Crunch talks are going to be held next Tuesday (August 10) between Transport for London (TfL) bosses and Unite in a bid to resolve the long-running Woolwich Ferry rep victimisation dispute, the union said on Wednesday (August 4).
Unite, which represents 57 ferry workers, has suspended industrial action due to be held next week as a goodwill gesture in the run-up to the talks which, the union said, TfL has already cancelled on three previous occasions.
The union wants to make clear to the travelling public that use the ferry that it is ever-ready for talks to settle the dispute which has, so far, seen 24 days of strike action.
Besides the victimisation of the two Unite reps, there has also been a 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 – these are issues which have arisen since TfL took back control from the discredited Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd in January this year.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said, “As a gesture of goodwill to the commuters who use the ferry, we have agreed to suspend the strike action for next week so that the first proper talks can take place with the TfL management.
“The employer has already cancelled three pre-arranged dates for talks and we want to make it crystal clear to the London public that it is not Unite that is dragging its feet in seeking a negotiated resolution to this dispute,” he added.
“It is our genuine hope and desire that TfL now sticks by the agreement to meet on Tuesday and comes to the talks to reach an agreement and not to prevaricate and play games,” Kasab continued.
“We are fully committed to entering into these negotiations in a very constructive fashion – we will leave no stone unturned in seeking a settlement that fully addresses the legitimate concerns of our members.”
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.
By Shaun Noble