Ferry workers in Woolwich walked out for a second time over allegations of management bullying and sexual harassment today, Friday.They operate the Thames river ferry crossing in south east London.
One worker alleged to Socialist Worker that she had received unwanted sexual attention from a manager and bullying over an extended period.
“I almost applied for another job, but I thought, ‘Why should I be pushed out?’”, she said
She added, “I didn’t think I could get through this, but my workmates, friends and family are angry and have given me support.”
The Unite and GMB union members' dispute with Briggs Marine bosses has intensified this week after exhaust fumes overwhelmed three engineers. One of the engineers collapsed on site.
An engineer told Socialist Worker, “I went home feeling rough and passed out. Three of us were off sick because of it.”
The engineer explained that there has been a long-term problem with the engine room, allegedly caused by running the service down. “Management have known about this since March, but they just put fans in the engine room and gave us protective masks that many of us feel are inadequate,” he said.
Jeff, one of the workers, told Socialist Worker, “Management knew about the fumes for a week, but they left the boat in service.
“It seem to me that the other two boats were not in good condition and management didn't want to go down to a one-boat service."
The engineer said, “Another worker was ringing me when I got home to see how I was and for advice about what to do about the fumes.The boat was in service at the time and I told them to hit the emergency stop.”
The incident also raises questions about whether it posed a danger to passengers using the ferry. Greg, another engineer, said, “The door is not airtight and the fumes were leaking out into the main hall.”
Greg described the health and safety situation as a “redundancy programme by stealth”.
“We had around 23 people in the workshop before and now we've got just 12 and people without the right skills are having to do things,” he said.
Workers are determined to fight back—and plan to walk out for the next ten Fridays. Every trade unionist should build solidarity in their fight against Briggs Marine bosses.