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Dates set for Woolwich ferry strike

PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 April 2019

One of the new Woolwich Ferries. Picture: Awil Mohamoud

One of the new Woolwich Ferries. Picture: Awil Mohamoud

Archant

Woolwich ferry workers are to strike for ten days over pay, health and safety, and staffing levels.

The 31 workers are members of the trade union Unite and voted for the action in March.

They will stop working for 24 hours over ten days: five in May and five in June.

The main issues are the refusal to grant a 6 per cent pay increase from January 2019, the introduction of new duties, safety concerns and a lack of staff, according to the union.

The private company Briggs Marine runs the service on behalf of Transport for London.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “A new service was launched earlier this year and the current dispute follows a restructuring which means fewer staff operating the ferry.

“It also results in significantly less pay for our members as more staff are on a shift system, so overtime is no longer payable, hence the six per cent claim for a hike in basic pay.”

Mr Kasab added that neither of the emergency diesel fire pumps have worked on either of the new ferries – which were only introduced in January.

“The ferries do have backup electric fire pumps. However, if there was a blackout or the service were to lose electrical power, which can happen, then there would be potential dangers to passengers and staff, as there would be no working fire extinguishers.”

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Mr Kasab said there is another safety issue: “I think the public have every reason to be concerned at fewer staff operating the ferry as this raises, in our view, serious health and safety issues.”

Ferry workers are due to strike on May 17, 20, 24, 28 and 31, and June 3, 7, 10, 14 and 17.

A spokeswoman said staff were consulted on changes and negotiated with them before the new boats were introduced – an agreement being made last year.

“Unite has made it plain to Briggs that their current dispute is over pay and the union has placed a series of demands which amount to a wage increase well in excess of 30 per cent,” she said.

“They have developed a range of justifications for this increase, including that it is compensation for lack of overtime payments. The new vessels naturally require less maintenance and support than the previous 55 year old ones.”

And she insisted that the service operates in line with UK law and industry codes of practice.

Passengers make around two million journeys on the Woolwich ferry each year.

This is only the latest disruption for travellers who rely on the ferry.

The service was closed for four months from October last year to February to replace the moorings and make way for new boats to run, which promise to be greener and more efficient.

A TfL spokesman said: “We urge Briggs Marine and Unite to sit down and talk through the issues to try and resolve them as soon as possible.”

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