Woolwich Ferry dispute intensifies after worker collapses

PUBLISHED: 10:01 31 January 2017 | UPDATED: 10:01 31 January 2017

The woolwich ferry service runs between Newham and Greenwich. Picture: Ian West/PA Images

The woolwich ferry service runs between Newham and Greenwich. Picture: Ian West/PA Images

PA Archive/PA Images

An engineer collapsed at the weekend after breathing in fumes in the engine room of a Woolwich ferry, escalating a dispute between bosses and workers.

Paramedics were called to the ferry crossing on Saturday and treated a man at the scene.

The engineer, a member of trade union Unite which is engaged in a dispute over health and safety with the service’s contractors Briggs Marine Ltd, was not admitted to hospital.

On Friday, 36 ferry workers, who are members of the union, began the first of 12 days of strikes in part over health and safety concerns, but also what Unite describes as a culture of bullyiing and sexual harassment.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “What happened at the weekend underlines what Unite has been saying for some time – there are serious health and safety concerns relating to the ferry.

“Thankfully, the engineer did not have to be detained in hospital, but this is another major wake-up call for the bosses.”

The union also claim that fire-fighting equipment is insufficient and that workers have discovered the toxic E.coli bacteria in one of the boat’s water tanks.

Mr Kasab added: “We have stated publicly that, as well as the sexual harassment issue of one of our female members, we have ongoing concerns about health and safety. The escaping fumes from the engine room could have also put passengers at risk.”

In response to the incident, a spokeswoman for Briggs Marine said: “On the afternoon of 28th January, an ambulance was called to the ferry after one of our engineering staff felt unwell after leaving the engine room. The engineer was treated by paramedics at the scene and did not require hospital treatment.

“The ferry was removed from service immediately. Initial testing by London Ambulance Service found no harmful levels of carbon monoxide to be present. We take the health and welfare of our staff very seriously indeed and we are investigating the incident thoroughly.”

The next 24 hour strike at the crossing, which transports 3,500 vehicles as well as foot passengers across the river each day, will be on Friday.

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