Following the announcement of the strike ballot below, City Cruises agreed to reinstate Hairia. RMT has hailed the outcome as a significant victory for union members at City Cruises.
Captains and mates working for City Cruises, a company which runs sightseeing trips along the River Thames, will ballot for strikes to demand reinstatement for Hairia Abdo, an unjustly sacked colleague.
Hairia, a Customer Service Assistant (CSA) at City Cruises, was sacked for something commonly accepted as an established working practice, despite her long service at the company.
Workers at City Cruises are organised by the Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers’ union (RMT), which has been conducting an organising campaign at the company for a number of years. RMT has recognition to collectively bargain on behalf of captains and mates, the workers who pilot the boats, but not on behalf of the customer service staff, amongst whom the union has individual members but no collective recognition. Therefore, the decision by the captains and mates – a better-paid and in some sense more “skilled” section of the workforce – to ballot for industrial action in defence of a CSA displays an admirable spirit of industrial unionist solidarity.
City Cruises is a rich company, earning significant revenue from its position as one of only a small handful of operators licensed to run sightseeing cruises in London. Its net worth has increased sharply over the last three years, rising from £10 million in 2013 to £15 million in 2016. Despite this, the conditions of work for their customer service staff mirror those experienced throughout the service sector, and are characterised by low pay and a lack of guaranteed hours. RMT is the only union to have attempt to organise customer service workers on the River Thames. Some captains and mates on other companies, such as the Thames Clipper boats (sponsored by Bank of America subsidiary MBNA), are members of Nautilus, a sectional union organising officer staff in the maritime industry.
The campaign to win reinstatement for Hairia can act as a spur to the RMT’s wider campaign to organise amongst CSAs and win collective bargaining rights for customer service staff at City Cruises.