Border Force staff will launch a second round of strikes at UK airports on Wednesday, with the trade union organising the industrial action claiming it would cause disruption.
The PCS union, which represents Border Force staff, highlighted how the government was being forced to bring in military personnel and other civil servants to cover for striking workers at six airports: Heathrow and Gatwick in London, plus Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow.
These arrangements helped avoid long queues at passport control for passengers flying into the airports during the industrial action by officials that began on December 23 and lasted for four days.
The UK is experiencing a wave of strikes in the public and private sectors as workers respond to the cost of living crisis by demanding higher pay.
The PCS has strongly criticised the government’s 2 per cent pay rise for civil servants including Border Force staff this year, and is demanding 10 per cent.
The second round of strikes by officials starting on Wednesday will also run for four days, and the PCS said the full extent of the disruption was hard to predict, partly because military personnel were not authorised to detain suspected criminals at passport control.
“We don’t know how much disruption will be caused because the military standing in for our Border Force officers are not allowed to stop people,” it added.
The Home Office said its robust contingency plans at the UK border were designed to prioritise security and safety.
“Non-striking Border Force staff, with the full range of appropriate powers, are continuing to complete their vital roles and we have spread our resources flexibly to ensure there is sufficient cover to fulfil our key priorities,” it added.
Airports said they were expecting minimal disruption during the latest industrial action, adding they had operated as normal during the strikes that ended on Boxing Day.
Heathrow airport said “there was no impact on the operation as a result of the first round of Border Force strikes”.
“Border Force and the military contingency worked well to keep the border free-flowing during the first round [of strikes], and that is our expectation going forward,” it added.
The resumption of strikes by Border Force staff will come after Network Rail, the infrastructure operator, warned against using some train services until January 9.
Engineering works on some rail lines will be followed by further strikes organised by the RMT union over pay from January 3.
Network Rail said: “Rail passengers who use the West Coast main line from London Euston to Carlisle and rail routes in the West Midlands, north west, Merseyside and Cumbria are being advised to only travel by train if absolutely necessary between December 24 and 8 January.”