UK

Christmas travel hit by new strikes as Border Force set for airport walkouts

Border Force workers across UK airports and ports will take strike action on key dates in December as their union calls for the government to come back to the negotiating table.

Strikes will take place between 23rd and 26th December, and from 28th to 31st December, impacting Birmingham, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow and Manchester airports, as well as the Port of Newhaven.

And the officers taking the action will be those responsible for checking the passports of people arriving into the country.

It comes amid a raft of strikes set to hit festive travel, with industrial action organised by train, bus and road workers in the run up to Christmas and throughout the holiday season.

But the pickets are not limited to transport, with teachers, nurses and ambulance workers among others from the public sector taking action over pay and conditions.

The Public and Commercial Services union said they were taking their action due to rows with the government over pay, the threat of job cuts and changes in pension rules.

They are calling for a 10% pay rise, better job security and no cuts to redundancy terms.

General secretary of the union, Mark Serwotka, said 40,000 of its members were having to use food banks, while 45,000 were claiming in work benefits

“This is a crisis,” he added. “We have tried for months to negotiate with the government and we have been ignored.

“We keep being told the government has an open door, but there is no point the door being open if there is nothing behind that door.

“The public sector have no option other than to take industrial action because our members currently are skipping meals, not being able to put the heating on at home because of the poverty they are living in.”

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A Border Force officer checks passports of arrival passengers in  Terminal 2 The Queen Terminal at Heathrow Airport, which opened for the first time to the public.
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The latest round of strikes will see Border Force officers responsible for checking passports walkout

The PCS union said 86% of its 100,000 members across 124 government departments and public sector employers voted in favour of strike action, calling it “unprecedented”.

A number of pickets had already been announced by its members, including driving instructors and highways officials.

But as well as today’s addition of the Border Force strikes, the union said it would “escalate in the new year if this action doesn’t get the government to sit around the negotiating table” – pointing to further workers in immigration and the Port of Dover willing to go out.

“Our action is designed to get the government to see sense and give our members money to stop them using foodbanks, which is the least they deserve,” said Mr Serwotka.

But immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the decision to strike was “unjustifiable and will ruin the plans of thousands of families and businesses across the country”.

“While we are working closely with all UK ports and airports and have robust plans in place to minimise any delays if strike action goes ahead, passengers should be prepared for their plans to be severely disrupted.

“Those intending to travel over strike days should keep up-to-date with the latest advice from operators before making journeys this Christmas.”

The Airport Operators’ Association echoed the disappointment from the Home Office, saying UK airports had “worked tirelessly to tackle several challenges since the reopening of international travel in order to provide a high level of service to passengers”.

The spokesperson added: “We urge Border Force, the Home Office, and all government departments to get back around the table to resolve these strikes before they begin or put in place concrete and deliverable contingency measures to keep the border operating smoothly.”

A spokesperson for Gatwick Airport also said they were “disappointed” by the move to strike, but said they hoped “a settlement to this dispute can be found as quickly as possible”.

They added: “We expect that flights will operate as normal and remain in regular contact with Border Force about their mitigation plans. Additional airport staff will also be made available to help with passenger welfare on strike days.”

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