Striking staff at the Woolwich Ferry are threatening to target Transport for London’s advertisers if their demands for better pay and conditions are not met.
The long-running dispute has seen services badly affected for weeks, adding to technical difficulties that have also taken boats out of service.
Staff say workers are being victimised and that their roles are being undermined by the use of temporary staff. They are also calling for big wage increases for their lowest-paid staff, to take them from £20,000 to £30,000.
Strikes will take place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until March 28 – but the Unite union says action could be stepped up if TfL does not move towards its demands.
Onay Kasab, Unite’s national lead for local government, said staff were willing to be more flexible for more money: “Those men and women are working in London and their pay is £20,000. So they are doing that job, out in the cold, a full working week and earning £20,000 in basic pay.
“They deal with irate travellers who have been waiting too long, and lorry drivers who sometimes get impatient.
“Employers are willing to raise that to £23k or £24k, but they want them to work longer hours and more weekends to get it.
“We don’t accept that, but we’re willing to be reasonable and compromise, if they’re willing to increase the offer – and this isn’t cloud cuckoo land for someone with a family in London – to more along the lines of £30,000.”
Kasab added: “If you look at the work these people are doing as well, as a safety critical job, it is not an unreasonable claim on behalf of these people.
“It’s what our car park people have asked for, and they said if you give us that then we’re prepared to do your longer hours and weekends.”
Kasab said that he acknowledged TfL’s financial problems, but did “not see why our members have to pay the price”.
He aded: “If we are not successful, not only will we continue with the strike action but we will intensify our campaign.
“We won’t just carry on doing the same thing if it’s not winning for us. We have made clear to TfL we are not going to wait till March 28.
“Within days we will begin a campaign that starts targeting and hitting TFL’s partners, advertisers and the people they work with. We will be saying to them, ‘this is the type of company you do business with.’
“If they want to do business with them, we will turn up at your premises and we will protest.”
The ferry has suffered an intermittent service for more than three years because of strikes and technical issues with new boats, which were introduced in 2019, replacing its much-loved 1960s vessels.
TfL took over from private contractor Briggs Marine at the start of 2021 after London mayor and TfL chair Sadiq Khan admitted that the new vessels were “not good enough”.
Additional reporting by Darryl Chamberlain
Kiro Evans is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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