Woolwich Ferry workers are staging a 24-hour strike in protest against equality issues and failure to pay London living wage, claims which the contractor denies and labels "misleading and needless."

TfL told the News Shopper it had been assured that Briggs Marine, the ferry's operator, were compliant with Living Wage Foundation guidelines, but urged the contractor and the union Unite to sit down and talk.

A total of 56 members of Unite are due to walk out on Thursday, December 19, claiming their employer doesn't meet the living wage, and failed to investigate a racial slur reportedly used in the canteen.

The union claims that bad employment practice is "endemic" within Briggs Marine's management team, and that they have "sliced and diced" the pay of an already low-paid workforce.

A spokesperson for Briggs Marine said Unite's statement was "both factually incorrect and misleading," stating that it pays in excess of London living wage and has strong policies in relation to equality.

Workers went on strike for 10 days during the summer, protesting over similar issues relating to the operator of the Woolwich Ferry.

This follows a long-running and bitter dispute at the ferry over a bullying culture and health & safety issues.

Following a re-ballot, members voted unanimously for more strike action.

Around 20,000 vehicles a week use the free service to cross the River Thames, though the ferry has been hit with several technical difficulties in the last year after new boats were brought in.

Unite regional officer, Onay Kasab, said: "It is an understatement to say the management at Briggs Marine Contractors has a very poor record when it comes to employment relations over a number of years.

“Unfortunately, it is the travelling public who will bear the brunt of the company’s unacceptable behaviour to its staff.

"Bad employment practice seems endemic within the management team as they continue to ignore previous agreements on job evaluation and equalities, and they ‘slice and dice’ the pay of an already low-paid workforce.

“The most recent example is the failure to pay the London living wage, although the company claims that, if you take into account of overtime and weekend working, it is doing so.

“However, the correct way to calculate paying the London living wage is with basic pay and you don’t include additional payments, such as overtime, which the employer is doing."

Mr Kasab added that Unite would not stand by and watch this "horror show of employment practice" to continue, and called for TfL to review its contract with the employer.

Responding the strike action, Briggs Marine stated: "The Company is in talks with UNITE. It is working hard to ensure that the public is not inconvenienced by Unite’s threatened action. Unite’s statement is both factually incorrect and misleading. The Company pays in excess of the London Living Wage, for all staff, as specifically confirmed to us by the Living Wage Foundation."

The spokesperson said there were strong policies in place over dignity, equality and against discrimination in all forms, and no claims have been made by staff and Unite in the last year, despite the company offering to investigate claims independently.

They added: "Unite has repeatedly stated that this is a ‘Pay Dispute’. In this regard, the Company has made a comprehensive, progressive and long term offer that Unite has said it wishes to discuss further.

"We therefore find this threatened action both unhelpful and needless and we call on Unite to continue working with us to avoid further disruption to the Public."

Danny Price, TfL's general manager of sponsored services, said they require all contractors to pay the London Living Wage as set out by the London Living Wage Foundation.

TfL investigated the complaint and were assured by the operator it is compliant.

He added: "We urge Briggs Marine and Unite to sit down and talk through the issues to try and resolve them as soon as possible.”