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Immigration staff at the UK’s busiest airports will go on strike over Christmas

In a dispute over pay, staff at passport booths would stand down for eight days, from December 23 to 31, the union says.

UK Border Force staff plan to strike at airports across the country over the busy Christmas period in a dispute over pay, one of the UK’s biggest unions has said, warning travelers will face serious interruptions.

Border Force workers at several major British airports, including the country’s busiest, London’s Heathrow, will stop work for eight days, from December 23 to 31, the Public and Commercial Services union said on Wednesday. (PCS).

The union’s general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said between 2,000 and 3,000 workers would be on strike.

The union said staff employed by the UK’s Home Office, the Home Office, in passport booths would take action at the country’s busiest airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, as well as Birmingham airport, the from Cardiff, Glasgow Airport, Manchester Airport and Newhaven Port. .

“It will certainly jeopardize the flight plans of hundreds of thousands of people because of the scale of the strike that the PCS union is planning,” Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan said, reporting from London.

“The dates we are talking about are essentially the peak times when people will want to get away for some winter sun or perhaps return to their home countries to see their families after spending time working here in the United Kingdom”.

PCS members working in other government departments, including the Highways Agency and the Department of Work and Pensions, have already announced strikes over wages and conditions.

Serwotka said workers were struggling to cope with rising costs of living caused by double-digit inflation and skyrocketing energy prices in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine.

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“The government can stop these strikes tomorrow if they put money on the table,” he said, telling a London news conference that the strike would have “serious” effects.

PCS members were “desperate” and a proposed 2 percent wage increase was not enough when inflation had topped 11 percent, he added, vowing to step up action in the new year unless the deadlock was broken.

He said, “PCS members come to me, sometimes crying, saying they can’t afford to put food on the table.”

Passengers queue inside the departures hall of Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport
Passengers queue inside the departures hall of Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport [File: Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

The strikes are part of growing instances of industrial action by railway workers, nurses, ambulance drivers and teachers.

The seaport of Newhaven, in south-east England, will also be affected.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday attacked “unreasonable” union leaders and warned of “tough new laws” to protect the lives and livelihoods of the British public.

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He did not elaborate but appeared to be referring to proposals first put forward in 2019 for a minimum level of service during strikes.

Sunak’s spokesman later said the plan was being worked on “at full speed”.

“We will consider all ways to stop further action, including legislation,” he told reporters.

A Heathrow spokesman said the airport was working with airlines and the Border Force on plans to mitigate disruptions.

“The Home Office advises that immigration and customs checks may take longer during peak hours on strike days, and Heathrow will support Border Force to minimize these impacts in order to process passengers across the Heathrow border. the most efficient way possible,” the spokesperson said.

Gatwick said it expected flights to operate as normal and would also make additional airport staff available to help passengers on strike days.

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