Unite members working on the Woolwich Ferry were balloted over strike action yesterday, while a further 24 hour bus strike is set to go ahead on 13 January.
Around 27 crew, electricians and road traffic teams working on the ferry are embroiled in a dispute with operator Briggs Marine over sick pay and the company's use of agency staff. Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said:
“The ferry workers are angry at the way in which the operator is riding roughshod over long standing agreements and practices.”
The union is calling on the company to return to the negotiating table, warning that a ‘yes’ vote for strike action would shut down the free service which carries more than 3,500 vehicles and 5,000 passengers a day. The ballot closes on Friday 16 January.
Unite also balloted bus drivers for 18 companies across London in another dispute about pay, leading to a 24 hour bus strike on 29 December. A further strike planned for 5 January was called off after both sides met with conciliation service ACAS. No resolution has been reached, so up to 27,000 bus workers will now take part in a London-wide bus strike on Tuesday 13 January.
Unlike tube drivers, London's bus drivers work for a number of different companies, meaning there are discrepancies between pay scales for the same job and even the same routes. Unite say this has led to pay gaps of more than £3 per hour, with pay varying from £9.30 to £12.34 an hour depending on the company. London regional officer Wayne King said:
“Passengers pay one fare to travel on London’s iconic red buses, yet there are over 80 different pay rates covering bus workers, many doing the same job or driving the same route but for different rates of pay.
“Strike action is not a step our members take lightly, but bus workers who keep London moving 24 hours a day, seven days a week, have had enough of pay inequality and unfair pay disparities."