Half-term holidays are set to be hit by travel disruption as Border Force officers at major ports will strike in a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Around 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) in Dover, Calais, Coquelles and Dunkirk will strike on 17, 18, 19 and 20 February, it was announced on Tuesday (31 January).
The announcement comes as 100,000 civil servants in 123 government departments stage a mass walkout on Wednesday (1 February) in what is the biggest civil service strike in a decade.
Wednesday’s strike over pay, pensions, redundancy terms and job security will affect those working for the Border Force at airports and ports, those working as driving examiners and at National Highways, museums and art galleries, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), among others.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members perform vital roles. We therefore expect our strikes will have a massive impact on public services. And the strikes we have announced today in the Border Force will impact on people returning from their holidays during the half-term period.
“For while the government brought untrained military personnel in to replace our highly skilled and experienced officers in airports over Christmas, they won’t be able to do that in France.
“The blame for these strikes lies firmly at the feet of ministers who are refusing to put any money on the table. They say they will talk about money for next year, but our members – who have been offered just a 2% rise at a time when inflation is around 10% – cannot afford to wait for next year.
“Many civil servants are already having to choose between heating and eating, having to claim the benefits they themselves have to administer and they are having to go to food banks.
“Ministers should be ashamed at how they treat their own workforce and until they come to the table with money for our members, we will continue to call strike action, with tomorrow’s strike being a key part of what will be a continuous, sustained, targeted campaign.”
‘Long wait times at border control’
Holidaymakers entering the UK on 1 February are being warned to expect longer wait times at border control and are urged to check the latest travel advice with operators before travelling. Passengers who are able to use the e-gates are advised to do so to help ease queues.
The strike action this week begins on 1 February and continues until 7am on 2 February, the PCS union has said. The walkouts will impact international arrivals at all UK air and maritime ports, as well as those travelling to the UK from UK border controls in Calais, Dunkirk and Coquelles in Northern France.
In a statement issued ahead of the strike last month, the government said: “Military personnel, civil servants and volunteers from across government are being trained to support Border Force at airports and ports across the UK in the event of potential strike action.
“Border Force are ready to deploy resource to meet critical demand and support the flow of travellers and goods through the border, however those entering the UK should be prepared for potential disruption.”
The PCS is seeking a pay rise of 10% after the government paid 2%, which the union complained was well below the soaring rate of inflation. The union also fears huge job losses and cuts to redundancy terms for those affected.