Woolwich Ferry workers to strike in support of 'victimised' shop steward

TfL plans to take over running the Woolwich Ferry by the end of 2020. Picture: TfL

TfL plans to take over running the Woolwich Ferry by the end of 2020. Picture: TfL - Credit: TfL

Woolwich Ferry workers are to go on strike over a "groundhog day" dispute.

Staff operating the service which connects Woolwich and North Woolwich are to stage eight days of strike action from May 14.

A total of 97 per cent of 57 Unite members voted for the strike in support of a rep who the union says has been victimised by bosses.

The strike is due to take place on May 14, 24, 28 and June 1, 4, 7, 11 and 21.

Ferry operator, Transport for London (TfL), said the service will not run if the strike goes ahead.

A TfL spokesperson said: "We have reached out numerous times to Unite about their concerns, and urge them to call off their proposed strike action and instead work with us to resolve this issue."

In the case of strike action, foot passengers can use the Woolwich Foot Tunnel or the DLR service between King George V and Woolwich Arsenal as alternatives.

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Drivers can use alternative crossings at Dartford, Blackwall and Rotherhithe, though these are subject to some vehicle restrictions.

Unite described the action as a "groundhog day" dispute because it says the ferry has been dogged by poor employment relations in recent years.

A 24-hour strike was threatened over pay and conditions in December 2019 after negotiations with the ferry's former operator, Briggs Marine, broke down.

According to the union, staff are also angry at the failure to agree a pay and reward scheme; excessive use of agency staff; and the failure to provide adequate health and safety training to new employees.

Unite regional officer, Onay Kasab, said: "Our members have returned an overwhelming mandate for strike action at the Woolwich Ferry in support of their victimised shop steward and over a myriad of other employment issues.

"Hopefully, the ballot result will be a light bulb moment for TfL and the management can get employment relations back on an even keel before strike action begins. To that end, Unite’s door is open 24/7 for constructive talks to resolve all the outstanding issues."

Before the pandemic about 20,000 vehicles a week were using the free service across the Thames which opened in 1889. An estimated 2.6 million passengers also used the ferry annually.