Commuters using the Woolwich Ferry face three months of travel disruption in the New Year as workers strike after ‘a year of misrule’ by Transport for London (TfL) bosses, Unite the union has announced.

Unite represents the 58 ferry workers who voted for strike action with a 90 per cent majority - and the 24 hour strikes will start on Monday 3 January and be held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until the end of March. (Exact dates in ‘notes to editors’.)

The continuing employment troubles at the ferry are compounded by technical problems with the new ferries which means that a full service is not currently operating.

Besides the victimisation of two Unite reps, there has also been a failure to agree a new pay and reward scheme; the excessive use of agency staff; and the failure to provide adequate health and safety training to new employees – these are issues which have arisen since TfL took back control from the discredited Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd in January this year.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, who has visited the ferry workers’ picket line, said: “The years of mismanagement, involving other operators, have been continued with TfL. However there is still an opportunity for TfL to retrieve the situation by entering into a constructive dialogue with Unite.

“Unite is pledged to defend our members’ jobs pay and conditions. That applies to our members at Woolwich Ferry who under TfL have had to fight victimisation of their union reps, deal with a total failure to produce a new pay award and end the use of agency staff.”

The ferry has been plagued by poor employment relations for years, first with the previous operator Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd and now with TfL which has led to more than 30 days of strike action this year.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Appalling employment relations have been compounded by the ferry not running a full service and may even stop running due to a problem with ‘magnets’.

“When the new boats were introduced they came with new technology enabling them to dock by a magnet system. However, the Dutch-produced magnets have stopped working and there have been added delays as technicians have not been able to travel from The Netherlands due to Covid restrictions.”

Before the pandemic struck at the beginning of 2020 about 20,000 vehicles a week were using the free service across the Thames which opened in 1889, following the abolition of tolls across bridges to the west of London. Pre-Covid-19, an estimated 2.6 million passengers also used the ferry annually.

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

Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers' living standards.


Notes to editors:

The strikes will start at 00:01 and conclude at 24:00 on the following dates:

January: 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21,24,26,28 and 31

February: 2,4,7,9,11,14,16,18,21,23,25 and 28

March: 2,4,7,9,11,14,16,18,21,23,25 and 28

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.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: 

Unite is the leading union in the UK and Ireland, dedicated to defending and improving members' jobs, pay and conditions. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.