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Woolwich Ferry workers steam to big victory

30 March 2023

The Woolwich ferry, seen here in 2015, is used by about 2 million passengers a year. Photo Keon3 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Workers on the Woolwich ferry services across the River Thames have won a hard-fought victory in a long-running dispute that started with the previous employer, the now discredited Briggs Marine, and continued with Transport for London when it took over the operation of the service in January 2021.

The dispute began on 23 September last year when members of the Unite union at Woolwich ferry voted overwhelmingly to strike. The dispute was partly about the suspension of two union reps, but also about a failure to agree a new pay and reward scheme, the excessive use of agency staff and the failure to provide health and safety training to new employees. 

After a series of strikes against low pay and intimidation the ferry workers have finally secured an agreement with Transport for London, including double-digit increases. Unite reports increases of 26 per cent – more than £6,000 – for car park attendants from April, and more than 18 per cent for some senior deckhands.

None of this would have been possible without the undaunted, steely determination of a united and organised workforce that is fully prepared to take collective responsibility and control of their place of work.

Unite lead national officer, Onay Kasab said: “This is a hard fought win that has only come about after our members took significant periods of strike action. 

“While some outstanding issues still need to be resolved, Unite has ensured that there is a genuine review process in place so we can continue to push on these additional areas. What’s absolutely crucial here is that Unite has once again secured a double digit pay increase for our members in the midst of a cost of living crisis.”