More than 1,000 Passport Office workers will go on strike for five weeks across the UK in an escalation of a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union working at passport offices in England, Scotland and Wales will take part in the walkouts in April and May.
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 Passport Office workers striking?
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 the strike impact travel?
The PCS union has warned the strike action is likely to have a “significant impact” on the delivery of passports as the summer approaches.
Just last month 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.