Woolwich ferry photo BL2002/CC, photo BL2002/CC

Woolwich ferry photo BL2002/CC, photo BL2002/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Unite members working for Transport for London (TfL) at the Woolwich Ferry site in London began a ballot for strike action on 16 May.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the employer beginning disciplinary procedures against one of the reps and also changing the shifts of other reps, in what is little more than an act of spite which has the aim of taking on and breaking the union. TfL recently insourced the contract from Briggs Marine, promising a bright future that included better work-life balance and access to an improved pension scheme. The work-life balance turned out to be little more than a pay cut, and last week workers received a letter stating that the promised TFL pension scheme was not appropriate after all.

The attack on trade union representatives is a calculated one – the union has a proud record of defending and winning better conditions, fighting and winning a safer working environment and fighting discrimination.

The union has responded as any union should when reps are under attack – not by relying on grievances, internal disciplinary procedures or a lengthy legal process through the anti-worker courts, but instead through collective action by balloting members for strike action. If Greater London Assembly (GLA) members from the Labour Party will not step in to defend workers, then they should stand aside – instead, this is a role that Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidates for the GLA will take up without hesitation.

This comes at the same time as Hackney parking wardens prepare to be balloted. Unite members employed by APCOA who run parking services in Hackney are again preparing for strike action after the employers failed to tackle long outstanding pay issues. Now the employers have begun disciplinary proceedings against the Unite rep based on trumped-up charges. Just as with the Woolwich Ferry, Hackney parking wardens have a record of industrial militancy and campaign wins – the last of which was the decision by the council to insource the service in April 2022. But with a further ballot pending, the union is demanding that the council bring forward the date of the transfer back into council control.