A culture of bullying at the Woolwich Ferry could lead to significant disruption for thousands of passengers, if workers vote for strike action, Unite, the country’s largest union, warned today (Tuesday 20 December).
Unite is balloting 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.
About two million passengers, as well as vehicle drivers, use the free ferry each year across the Thames.
Today Unite told the company that the ballot of its crew members, traffic teams, engineers and office staff, would open on Tuesday 3 January and will close on Friday 13 January. The GMB union is also expected to ballot its members.
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.
“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.
“If this strike goes ahead, thousands of passengers will suffer disruption and have to use alternative routes. The Woolwich Ferry, which has been in use since the 14th century, remains a major transport link for the capital.
“It needs to be made crystal clear that any industrial action would not have a political agenda. It would be a democratic and legitimate ‘fight back’ against a poor employer and appalling working practices.
“Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd now has a window of opportunity to enter into a constructive dialogue with the unions to resolve these serious issues that are adversely affecting our members.”
The free service opened in 1889, following the abolition of tolls across bridges to the west of London.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.