Christmas trips to London at risk, border staff strike

Bad news for those who had planned or thought about taking a Christmas trip to London or England. Border Force employees at several major British airports, including the busiest in the country, Heathrow, in London, have called a strike lasting more than a week from the 23rd to the 31st, which will only be interrupted on the 27th, over a dispute over the pay. It was launched by the PCS (Public and Commercial Services) union which decided that the staff employed by the British Home Office in the passport control booths will cross arms at the airports of Heathrow and Gatwick in London, as well as at the airports of Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester and Newhaven.

According to the general secretary of the union, Mark Serwotka, from 2 to 3 thousand employees will be involved in the action. The decision was made after 100,000 PCS members in 214 government departments and other public bodies voted in favor of the action to demand a 10% wage increase, pensions, more job security and no cuts to staff. Because of this strike, border controls could become much more complicated and create very long queues and heavy delays, with the risk that In explaining why precisely the Christmas period was chosen to take union action, Serwotka explained that “people strikers lose their wages, they do so as a last resort and the union’s job is to ensure that the action we call is noticed.”

This is bad news not only for tourists arriving in the country but above all for British travellers, given that serious railway disruptions are also expected during the Christmas period, with over 40,000 railway workers going on strike on 13-14, 16-17, 24- 27 December and then 3-4 and 6-7 January. A Heathrow spokesman said the airport was working with airlines and the Border Force on plans to mitigate the disruption. “The Home Office warns that customs and immigration controls could take longer during peak times on strike days and Heathrow will support the Border Force to minimize these impacts, with the aim of getting passengers through the border as efficiently as possible,” the spokesman said.

Gatwick said flights would operate as normal and would make extra airport staff available to help passengers on strike days. The army could also be employed to reduce the inconvenience. Soldiers received fast training to be able to replace Border Force personnel. The strike announcement came as the government is drawing up plans to contain the disruption to public services, following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to take “tough” action in the face of the growing number of strikes planned over wage increases below inflation.

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