Passport Office strike: how will passport renewal and applications be affected - dates of 5 week walkout
Workers will strike for most of April into May over demands for better pay and conditions
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Passport Office workers are beginning a five-week strike today in the increasingly bitter civil service dispute over jobs, pay, pensions and conditions.
More than 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) at eight sites will walk out in an escalation of the long-running row.
Workers will mount picket lines outside the offices in Glasgow, Durham, Liverpool, Southport, Peterborough, London, Belfast and Newport in Wales, with those taking action to be supported by a strike fund, the union said.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka is calling on the government for urgent talks to resolve the dispute and has accused ministers of treating its own employees differently to others in the public sector after negotiations were held with unions representing health workers and teachers.
The union is now stepping up strikes, with a nationwide walkout of more than 130,000 civil servants planned for 28 April.
Why are Passport Office workers striking?
The union said the action was a “significant escalation” of its long-running dispute and warned it was likely to have a “significant impact” on the delivery of passports ahead of summer.
Members are asking for a 10% pay rise as well as job security, changes to their pensions and protected redundancy terms, but the government has said the demands are unaffordable.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This escalation of our action has come about because, in sharp contrast with other parts of the public sector, ministers have failed to hold any meaningful talks with us, despite two massive strikes and sustained, targeted action lasting six months.
“Their approach is further evidence they’re treating their own workforce worse than anyone else. They’ve had six months to resolve this dispute but for six months have refused to improve their 2% imposed pay rise, and failed to address our members’ other issues of concern.
“They seem to think if they ignore our members, they’ll go away. But how can our members ignore the cost-of-living crisis when 40,000 civil servants are using foodbanks and 45,000 of them are claiming the benefits they administer themselves?
“It’s a national scandal and a stain on this government’s reputation that so many of its own workforce are living in poverty.”
When are the strikes?
More than 1,000 Passport Office workers will strike over five weeks from 3 April to 5 May.
The PCS union said those working in Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport, Peterborough and Southport will walk out during this period. Those in Belfast will strike from 7 April to 5 May.
More than 4,000 people are employed by the Passport Office across the UK, meaning around one in four workers will be striking.
How will passport delivery be affected?
The Passport Office has already processed more than 2.7 million applications this year, according to the Home Office, and more than 99.7% of standard applications are being processed within 10 weeks, with the majority of those delivered to customers well under this timescale.
There are currently no plans to change official guidance which states that it takes up to 10 weeks to get a passport.
In February, holidaymakers were warned to allow 10 weeks for new passports to arrive if they are planning on travelling abroad this summer.
The Home Office advised that the 10-week deadline introduced during the pandemic would remain in place due to an “elevated” and “volatile” demand for travel documents after Covid restrictions were lifted in the UK and approach.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman reportedly told MPs: “We expect elevated demand for passports throughout the year – and demand can be volatile – so customers should continue to allow 10 weeks. I urge people to apply in good time and not at the last minute.”
The Passport Office said it received a “record number of applications” in 2022 which was blamed for the delays, which saw a total of 360,000 people forced to wait longer than 10 weeks to receive their passports last year.
A report by the National Audit Office, the government’s spending watchdog, has warned the Passport Office should “prepare for similar levels of demand” in 2023, with up to 10 million applications expected.
The figures come amid a recent hike in passport fees, which saw the cost of applying for a new British passport rise from £75.50 to £82.50 for adults, and £49 to £53.50 for children. Postal applications for passports also increased, rising from £85 to £93 for adults and £58.50 to £64 for children.
It is the first time in five years that the cost of applying for a passport has increased, the Home Office said, adding that the proposals are subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
How will the strike impact travel?
Heathrow has said that the airport continues to operate as normal and security lanes are free-flowing despite an ongoing strike by security guards.
Contingency plans are “working well” an airport spokesman said, adding: “There have been no last-minute cancellations at Heathrow due to these strikes. Any cancellations were agreed and actioned at the start of the week, giving passengers advance notice.
“Any additional cancellations today are an airline decision and not connected to these strikes.
“This could include a number of factors such as aircraft issues, crew shortages, weather at outstations or air traffic control issues like the ongoing strikes in France.”
The PCS union has warned the strike action is likely to have a “significant impact” on the delivery of passports as the summer approaches.