6 April 2017
More Woolwich Ferry strikes announced in ‘bullying culture’ dispute
Travellers using the Woolwich Ferry face two-days of disruption later this month, as new strikes are announced in the long-running dispute over a bullying culture, and health and safety issues.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 6 April) that talks had stalled because an intransigent management had failed to make sufficient progress into a number of serious allegations, including a case of sexual harassment.
The union has told Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd, which runs the service on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), that its members will strike for 24 hours from 00.01 on Tuesday 18 April and Friday 21 April.
Workers, belonging to Unite and the GMB, took two days of strike action – 27 January and 3 February – before suspending industrial action so that talks could take place.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “However, talks have not made enough progress. The top managers are intransigent, evasive and prone to stalling.
“The investigation into the sexual harassment case is still ongoing, as is the probe into sending workers to work in exhaust fume filled areas. And to top it all, no managers have been held to account for their actions.
“The union has also made serious allegations about the way some managers have conducted themselves in the workplace in a number of respects – and we firmly believe these matters warrant further investigation.
“These allegations have been brought up as part of the dispute negotiations to demonstrate very clearly that a management problem exists – but the company has simply stated that it will re-issue guidance to all staff in these areas instead of taking decisive action.
“In addition, the workers poisoned by fumes now face sickness absence hearings – an outcome which could include disciplinary warnings for sickness absence, which would be grossly unfair, given the circumstances.
“We have worked very hard to reach a settlement on the myriad issues stemming from this dispute, so travellers would not face disruption. But the management’s negative attitude has left us with no alternative.”
About 3,500 vehicles a day use the free service across the Thames which opened in 1889, following the abolition of tolls across bridges to the west of London. An estimated two million passengers also use the ferry annually.
There has been a ferry has been in place at the site since the 14th century.