A looming strike by 3,500 Border Force staff threatens to create disruption at ports in the lead-up to the crucial Christmas trading period.
The ISU union – which represents UK Border Force, immigration enforcement and visa officers – is threatening strike action over an 8% pay claim, after rejecting a 3% offer from the Home Office.
Mark Gribbin, the ISU’s general secretary, said strikes would be targeted at border ports, which are key to the importing of Christmas goods and food supplies, reports 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,” Gribbin said.
He also described strikes as a “last resort”.
Ballot result due
As a key public service, more than 50% of the members have to vote in the ballot, which is due to close on 31 October. More than 40% of the membership also have to vote in favour of industrial action to provide a mandate.
The union has said it won’t take any action that would jeopardise national security, with border checks still taking place, reports LBC.
Larger airports like Heathrow, Gatwick, and Manchester are likely to be worst impacted, as well as popular travel ports such as the Port of Dover in Kent, which experienced six-hour delays due to security staff shortages this summer, reports Euronews.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent Matthew Scott said the situation was “problematic” and was seeking an urgent meeting with Cabinet Office ministers and officials to discuss contingency plans.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Government has robust plans in place to deploy officers flexibly to support the flow of passengers and goods at the UK border.”
The ISU threat comes as a ballot for industrial action by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), representing more than 150,000 civil servants including some border officers, is due to close on November 7.
The ISU was formed after a split with a predecessor to the PCS over disagreements on policy and generally keeps itself independent from wider civil service union politics.
Speaking at the Trades Union Congress last week, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said it was prepared to plan coordinated strike action with other unions to help workers get “an inflation-busting pay rise”.
Serwotka suggested road officials could take action on the same day as rail workers, and Border Force officials on the same day as airport staff, to cause maximum disruption, reports the Guardian.