We already know that flying at Christmas can be a pretty chaotic experience. But this festive season, things could get even worse as the ISU (the union representing the UK Border Force staff employed by the Home Office, as well as customs officials) is balloting to strike over pay, which could lead to lengthy queues at airports and ports during peak season.
ISU, which represents 3,500 border force, immigration enforcement and visa officers, is threatening industrial action as it fights for an 8 percent pay rise. The union has rejected the Home Office’s 3 percent offer but has made it clear that it will not take any action that would jeopardise national security. This means that checks will continue at UK borders but they might take longer, leading to queues, and may require the deployment of police and military staff.
Mark Gribbin, the ISU’s general secretary, said the union was considering a ‘longer period’ of industrial action over the Christmas and New Year period when millions of people travel to visit relatives and friends. He said the strikes would also be targeted at Channel immigration offices and border ports, which are key to the importation of goods and food supplies at Christmas.
Matthew Scott, the police and crime commissioner for Kent, is seeking an urgent meeting with Cabinet Office ministers and officials to discuss plans including whether extra police officers will be needed to help with the migrant crisis at UK borders.
‘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,’ he said.
To secure a mandate for strike action, the ballot needs a turnout of more than 50 percent of ISU members, and a majority of more than 40 percent in favour of industrial action. The ballot is due to close on October 31, so we should find out in the coming weeks how the potential strike might impact travel over Christmas.