20 January 2017
More than 40,000 car journeys that rely on the Woolwich Ferry are set to be disrupted as the workers announce 12 days of 24-hour long strikes going into the spring over a bullying culture.
Crew members, traffic teams, engineers and office staff – members of Unite, the country’s largest union – voted by a large majority of 88 per cent to take strike action.
The first strike day is scheduled for next Friday (27 January) and the final day is Friday 14 April.
Unite had balloted its 36 members, working for Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd which runs the service on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), for strike action over the failure to abide by agreements, health & safety concerns, and a culture bullying and sexual harassment.
The union said that 3,500 vehicles a day use the ferry, which has been in place since the 14th century, and therefore 12 days of strike action could adversely affect about 42,000 car users. About two million passengers, as well as vehicle drivers, use the free ferry each year across the Thames.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “There is a very unpleasant culture of bullying and harassment at this company, including serious allegations of a sexual nature made by one of our female members.
“The large majority for 12 days of strike action underpins our members’ anger at the company culture.
“We accept that the strikes will cause serious disruption to an estimated 42,000 car and vehicle users, as well as countless foot passengers, right into the spring, and they will have to use alternative routes on London’s already strained and creaking transport system.
“However, the ball is very much in the court of the employer. The bosses need to address these serious allegations urgently, if strike action is to be averted.
“Our members have also reported that health & safety is being compromised through lack of training and that the bosses are trying to cut costs by failing to abide by agreements.
“Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd now has a window of opportunity to enter into a constructive dialogue with Unite to resolve these serious issues that are adversely affecting our members. Unite’s door is open 24/7.”
The strike action consisting of a series of 24-hour stoppages will start at 00:01 hours on: 27 January; 3 February; 10 February; 17 February; 24 February; 3 March; 10 March; 17 March; 24 March; 31 March; 7 April; and 14 April.
The free service opened in 1889, following the abolition of tolls across bridges to the west of London.