The decision by Transport for London (TfL) to take over the running of the Woolwich Ferry, used by an estimated 2.6 million passengers annually, by the end of 2020 has been warmly welcomed by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union.

Unite represents 56 workers currently embroiled in a dispute with Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd which holds the contract.

Today (Monday 10 February), mayor of London Sadiq Khan asked TfL to review its options for the management of the ferry ahead of current contract ending on 31 March. The transition to an in-house operation is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Unite warmly welcomes the decision that will see the vital Woolwich Ferry being brought back under the control of Transport for London (TfL) by the end of the year.

“We have been campaigning for this contract to come back under TfL’s auspices for some time and today’s announcement is a victory for our campaign.

“The Briggs Marine contract has been dogged by continuing controversy and atrocious employment relations.

“We are glad that TfL has concluded that taking the operation and maintenance in-house would ensure a higher level of control and   improve services to the thousands of Londoners that use the service every day.”  

The workforce is due to hold two 24 hour strikes on Friday 28 February and then on Friday 13 March in the latest dispute which centres on the failure to pay the London living wage (currently £10.75 an hour) on basic pay; the imposition of changes to overtime and shift working; failure to adhere to the agreed job evaluation scheme; and failure to deal with equality issues.

Onay Kasab added: “We recognise that we are now entering into a new industrial relations’ environment with this news today and we are prepared to suspend these two strikes if TfL engages directly with us to resolve these outstanding issues.

“We are keen to engage constructively with TfL management so that the Woolwich Ferry can be operated in a fashion that truly benefits the users and the workforce.” 

About 20,000 vehicles a week 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 2.6 million passengers also use the ferry annually.

There has been a ferry in place at the site since the 14th century.


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065. Email: [email protected]

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.