Woolwich Ferry workers in east London continue their militant fight for pay—and against victimisations and the excessive use of agency staff.
The workers have struck repeatedly since 14 May, completely stopping the ferry’s operation which serves as a vital Thames crossing.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham snubbed Labour Party conference in Brighton to attend the workers’ lively picket on Monday.
Speaking to the strikers she said, “I wanted to come to this picket because I stood to become general secretary so that workers wouldn’t be made to pay for the pandemic.
“I want to make sure we win this strike and I’ll be personally involved.”
Many workers are frustrated that London Mayor, Sadiq Khan continues to ignore workers’ pleas to intervene in order to resolve the dispute.
Graham said, “Sadiq Khan is pretending that he isn’t involved in this.”
She assured members that she’d meet with him adding, “If Khan says there’s nothing he can do… we will escalate.
“They (managment) have tried to break you but you’ve got them on the ropes. Now we need to drive it through.”
The ferry service has been devastated by poor employment relations in recent years. This led to TfL taking over its operation from the discredited Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd in January.
But the issues facing workers remain.
The dispute which involves 57 workers has been “long and difficult”, one worker told Socialist Worker. But he remained optimistic as “management has started to shift recently”.
“We’ve made more progression on pay negotiations—it took ages to get to that point,” he said. “Now we’re looking to take things further and continue these strikes.”
Significantly one victimised union rep, Mark, has been reinstated into his role as captain. He told Socialist Worker, “They had no evidence against me.
“They went for me as a rep and as a captain to shake up the workers.
“Management wouldn’t let go but the strike ripped them a new one and they overturned everything.”
October will be a negotiating period for the union but workers are being balloted to extend the strike. Workers talk proudly of being willing to increase the number of strike days.
Unite officer, Onay Kasab, told pickets, “We will get a 100 percent turnout and we will get a 100 percent yes vote.
“We knew when we started it was about not letting them break our union. They haven’t done that.”
As the dispute progresses workers must keep up the pressure on union officials to ensure all their demands are met.
- Senior conductors and train managers in the RMT union united to fight for workplace justice and safety.
Bosses have attempted to undermine the two separate disputes by hiring strike breakers with just one day of training.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said, “It is frankly appalling that East Midlands Railways are blatantly flouting the most basic of safety standards in a desperate bid to break the strike action.
“No one should be allowed to carry out the role of the guard without the basic safety competencies that are the benchmark of the rail industry.”
- Ticket examiners on Scotrail are set to continue their Sunday strikes after the RMT union members voted overwhelmingly to escalate their fight for pay and equality.
The strikers have been fighting for six months and have announced further strikes following a 90 percent vote to continue action.
Workers will be on strike every Sunday in October.
In addition they won’t work any rest days or accept any higher grade duties.
- Bus drivers and cleaners working for Stagecoach in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, are balloting for strikes in a fight for pay.
The Unite union claims the firm are using the pandemic as an excuse to refuse workers decent pay.
Workers at the Stonegravels depot worked through the pandemic to provide vital transport for key workers—despite the risks to themselves.
Stagecoach has refused since refused to give them a pay rise.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, said, “Bosses at the firm should know that Unite is ready for a relentless campaign if our Chesterfield members vote for strike action.”
Manchester strike threat wins new pay offer
Planned strikes on the Manchester Metrolink tram system last weekend were suspended after workers received a “greatly improved” pay offer.
The Unite union members had voted overwhelmingly for industrial action and strikes.
The action would have disrupted transport during the Manchester United vs Aston Villa football match—and the Great North Run the next day.
Following extensive negotiations last week between Unite and senior management at Keolis/Amey, which operates Metrolink, a vastly improved pay offer was agreed.
The Unite members at Metrolink will now vote on the offer, which Unite is recommending they accept.
The workers had been previously offered a 1 percent pay increase spread over a 15-month period, which was in effect a large pay cut in real terms.
Unite regional officer Dave Roberts said, Unite had been clear from the outset that the previous pay offer was not fit for purpose but if management at Keolis/Amey tabled an acceptable offer, strikes could be avoided.
“The suspension in strike action will allow our members to fully consider the improved pay offer.”
Education—Walk out over school ‘restructure’
NEU members at Nottingham Primary Academy, Nottingham walked out on Wednesday and Thursday last week over restructuring plans.
Workers claim the restructure would impact the students education after they’ve missed time in school due to the pandemic.
The planned management restructure could also force staff to reapply for their jobs.