Passengers at United Kingdom airports experienced long delays after Border Force officers walked out as part of the latest strikes of public sector workers across the country.
More than 1,000 passport control staff are expected to walk out on the first day of a strike that is planned to last until New Year over pay, according to the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).
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The walkout is the latest addition to strikes of nurses, paramedics, and workers in the rail and postal sectors in the biggest wave of industrial action over pay and conditions in Britain for decades.
Following stoppages, the government refused to increase pay following years of wage stagnation and a cost-of-living crisis that has seen inflation running at nearly 11 percent.
The strike, organised by the PCS, is the first of eight planned between Friday and January 1 at six UK airports.
The government has drafted in armed forces personnel and civil servants to operate passport booths at the airports – Heathrow, Birmingham, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow and Manchester and the southern coast port of Newhaven.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said many Border Force employees were struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
“Forty-thousand of our members are using food banks; 45,000 of them are claiming in-work benefits. They are the in-work poor,” he told BBC radio, adding that the dispute was also about pensions and job security.
‘Should be prepared for disruption’
Travellers were warned to expect delays as they might face long queues at passport control that could lead to people being held on planes, disrupting subsequent departures.
“During the periods of industrial action, travellers should be prepared for disruption,” Border Force Chief Operating Officer Steve Dann said.
Heathrow, Britain’s busiest airport, reported “minimal queueing” in its arrivals halls.
“Immigration halls are free flowing … with Border Force and the military contingency providing a good service,” a spokesperson said.
Gatwick, Britain’s second busiest, said passengers should expect longer wait times at passport control between Friday and the end of the year.
“We … anticipate some disruption, but flights are operating normally, arrivals and departures, and we expect that to continue,” Adam Jones, head of passenger operations, told Sky News.
About a quarter of a million passengers are due to arrive at affected airports on Friday.
National Highways workers responsible for motorways and major roads in London and southeast England, represented by the PCS, were also on Friday continuing their own four-day walkout, which started on Thursday.
Railway workers will stage another strike from 6pm (18:00 GMT) on Friday, through Christmas Eve until December 27.
And on Saturday, some London bus workers and Environment Agency employees will also launch separate waves of action.
The Border Force strikes will take place every day for the rest of the year, except for December 27.