Chaos and long delays could occur at the borders during the festive period as Border Force workers could go on strike in a dispute with the Home Office over pay rises. The ISU union for borders, immigration and customs are balloting its members for industrial action, challenging the government’s suggested three percent pay rise. The strike could also lead to potential shortages over the festive period as the union plans to target border ports, impacting importations of goods and food.
Reduced staff at the borders would mean delays and misery at the airports and ports, for travellers looking to see their families or take a vacation during the Christmas period.
While the importation of festive goods, such as toys and food, could be obstructed as well, as the strikes target Channel migrant work and border ports.
Around 3,500 Border Force workers, members of the ISU seek an eight percent pay rise and threaten to go on strike during the Christmas and New Year’s period.
The ISU’s general secretary, Mark Gribbin, said the three percent pay rise is a “profound insult” as the union’s members are faced with the challenges of the cost of living crisis.
The union blasts the Home Office for “[refusing] to engage with our pay claim or to offer any avenue to resolve this dispute constructively”.
Mr Gribbin stressed that the union plans on a “longer period” of “more focused” industrial action.
He told the Telegraph: “The Home Office position is intransigent, unreasonable and disrespectful. We have now exhausted all options short of industrial action to carry forward our pay campaign.
“There will be a focus on our border ports and on Channel migrant work. We are also considering a longer period of industrial action over the Christmas and New Year period.
“We are prepared also to look at more focussed action, directed either at refraining from specific workplace activities or perhaps shorter strike stoppages, where lengthier action would risk especially severe national security consequences.”
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Matthew Scott told the Telegraph: “Kent is a can-do police force but if we get 500 to 600 migrants turning up on a strike day, that will be problematic.”
The Commissioner is seeking an urgent meeting with Cabinet Office ministers and officials to discuss contingency plans.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We work closely with all UK ports and airports to ensure passengers and goods can cross the border as smoothly as possible, and will do so in the event of any industrial action.
“Government have robust plans in place to deploy officers flexibly to support the flow of passengers and goods at the UK border.”