Woolwich Ferry strikes suspended for talks

Unite urges Woolwich Ferry - seize opportunity to resolve dispute as strike ballot suspended to kick-start talks

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Woolwich Ferry’s workers have suspended their industrial action and also plans to hold another strike ballot in a goodwill gesture to resolve the long-running dispute, Unite the union said today (April 5).

Unite has put forward proposals, which remain confidential, to Transport for London (TfL) bosses to kick-start meaningful talks over the poor employment relations that have been the hallmark of successive operators of the troubled ferry.

Six workers, including two Unite reps, still remain unfairly suspended when the last bout of industrial action ended on March 28.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, who has visited the ferry workers’ picket line, said, “Our members at Woolwich Ferry have offered up this positive initiative in order to make the space for negotiations and for the suspension of our six members, including two of our reps, to be reversed.

“Management at TfL and Woolwich Ferry now need to seize this opportunity for progress.”

Besides the victimisation of two Unite reps, the dispute has also been about 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 2021.

Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab added, “This bitter dispute has once again reached a point where the employer has the opportunity to consider what are reasonable and workable proposals from Unite. We are committed to engaging in meaningful negotiations – but this requires the employer to do the same for the talks to succeed.

“Our commitment is demonstrated by our suspension of action to allow for talks – this now needs to be reciprocated.”

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.

Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.

By Shaun Noble

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