Border worker strike expected to cause chaos
The Immigration Service Union (ISU) has announced plans of a nationwide strike next Thursday 10th May, with up to 4,600 border workers expected to walk out in a dispute over pensions.
The news comes in the wake of criticism of Heathrow Airport’s immigration queues. It was revealed by BAA this week that some passengers arriving into the country in April waited up to three hours in passport control. This is more than double the target waiting time limit of 45 minutes.
Next week’s strike is expected to cause yet more chaos to border activity.
The discontent comes over the government’s plans to make border force employees work longer and contribute more only to receive less on retirement. Immigration workers will now join up to 200,000 other public workers in a nationwide public sector strike on 10th May.
Home secretary Theresa May and UK Border Force bosses are meeting airline officials to discuss contingency plans to deal with the disruption. Procedures have been drawn up to draft in military police and civil service employees to work immigration desks and passengers have been advised not to cancel under promises of “minimal” disruption.
However, there have been warnings that waiting times will take even longer due to stand-in staff lacking the appropriate training and practice for such busy travel hubs. On an average weekday around 250,000 people fly into British airports. This does not take into account those arriving into the country by sea and rail, services that are also expected to be affected by the strike.
It has also been reported that the strife has spread to Eurotunnel stations on the continent, with terminals in Calais, Paris and Brussels bracing themselves for the walkout.
Another fear is a lapse in security, as workers attempt to process people more quickly to reduce queues in busy periods.
The strikes have been condemned as putting yet more pressure on immigration controls that are already taking a toll on the economy.
Simon Walker, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said: “The current problems at Heathrow are bad enough without strikes adding to the chaos. Our border controls are an international embarrassment, putting British jobs and economic growth at risk, and this strike will make that worse.”