Border Force workers at Birmingham Airport to launch strikes over Christmas in pay dispute

PCS members working at Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff airports will strike for eight days from December 23 to New Year’s Eve.

A Border Force officer checks passports
A Border Force officer checks passports

Border Force workers including at Birmingham Airport are to launch a series of strikes over Christmas in a bitter dispute over pay, pensions and jobs.

The Public and Commercial Services union announced its members working at Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff airports will strike for eight days from December 23 to New Year’s Eve.

The union has already announced strikes at the Department for Work and Pensions, National Highways and among driving examiners.

Around 1,000 Border Force workers will strike on December 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30 and 31.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the staff work at passport control so the strike will have a “significant impact”.

He warned the Government against bringing in the military to cover for the strikes, saying there was not enough time to train them properly.

Mr Serwotka has met Government ministers but he said they were refusing to increase a 2% pay rise.

“They keep saying their door is open, but it is a very strange door because there’s nothing behind it.”

He warned that the PCS will escalate industrial action in the new year unless the deadlock is broken.

Mr Serwotka also raised the prospect of co-ordinated action with other unions involved in disputes.

He said: “The Government can stop these strikes tomorrow if it puts money on the table.

“Like so many workers, our members are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. They are desperate. They are being told there is no money for them, while they watch ministers giving out Government contracts worth billions of pounds to their mates.

“Some sections of the media have accused us of playing politics with these strikes. Let me be clear: our dispute is with the employer.

“We will fight to improve our members’ pay, terms and conditions regardless of who is in Downing Street.”

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Our priority is to ensure passengers get through the border safely and as quickly as possible.

“We are working closely with airlines and Border Force on mitigation plans for potential strike action by Border Force officers and these plans will now be implemented for the notified days.

“The Home Office advises that immigration and customs checks may take longer during peak times on strike days, and Heathrow will support Border Force to minimise these impacts with the aim of processing passengers through the border as efficiently as possible.

“Passengers are advised to check their flight status with their airline before travelling. We encourage all parties to resolve this dispute quickly.”

UK strikes in December
(PA Graphics)

The airport pointed out that the workers involved in the strikes are employed by the Home Office, not Heathrow.

PCS members at the port of Newhaven will also strike on the same days.

Mr Serwotka said anger over delays caused by the strikes should be directed at the Government.

The PCS has previously said that 40,000 of its members employed by the Government rely on foodbanks and 45,000 claim in-work benefits.

More than 100,000 PCS members have voted to strike and Mr Serwotka said more government departments will be affected by strikes in the new year.

He accused ministers of pressing ahead with plans to cut thousands of jobs in the civil service and reduce redundancy terms as well as giving a pay rise well below the rate of inflation.

“We are having to embark on industrial action which will have a major effect on people who use public services, but we have no option,” he told a press conference at the PCS headquarters in London.

Mr Serwotka said his first responsibility was to his members, many of whom were “in tears” at having to cope with the cost-of-living crisis.

He predicted that unions involved in the wave of disputes across the country will co-ordinate action.

Minister for Immigration Robert Jenrick: “The union’s decision to strike over the festive period is 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.”

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