Staff at the UK’s Border Force which provides personnel at airports and ferry ports to check the passports of incoming and outgoing passengers are to go on strike over the festive season. It has been announced by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) which represents Border Force members that there will be two phases to the eight days of strikes, December 23 – 26 inclusive, and December 28-31, inclusive.
This will result in the absence of over 1,000 officials at passport controls at airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and Cardiff. The PCS is looking for a pay increase for its members of 10% while the UK government is currently only offering 2%. The members of the UK Border force are not employed directly by airports. In response to the threatened strikes, the UK government has turned to the army for help and will be training enlisted soldiers to man the border control checkpoints at airports. They will go on an accelerated training course that would usually take between five and six weeks to complete.
Both Heathrow and Gatwick Airports have been relatively bullish with regard to the impending delays at a critical time of the year, advising that delays to passengers flights, or even cancellations, are unlikely. However, as a pre-emptive strike, several carriers are looking to cancel flights in advance of the dates. Manchester airport said: “Unfortunately, we expect it will be necessary for airlines to cancel some services on the days impacted by strike action to ensure the number of arriving passengers aligns with lower UK Border Force resources. We will be working with our airlines to provide passengers with as much advance notice of cancelled services as possible, so that people have the chance to rebook their travel around the strike days.”