The Immigration Services Union (ISU) representing 4,500 immigration staff, and the Public and Commercial Services Union representing 13,000 Border Agency Staff are to join public sector workers in a strike against the new retirement age next Thursday.
The ISU has only gone on strike once in 30 years, stating that it is “a moderate, non-political union. We prefer dialogue to strike action, agreement to discord.”
However, it argues that the government’s plans to raise the age of arresting officers to over 65 is not fair and could affect their health. It said: “Members cannot work until their late sixties. Their jobs are too physically demanding. Arresting offenders and working a shift pattern impacts on their health.”
Despite the ballot in favour of strike action, it is uncertain how many ISU members will actually join in. Less than a third of all members voted, and of that, only 73% voted for the action.
Heathrow in particular has been hit with damning reports of people having to wait up to three hours to get their passports checked this week, so any amount of workers who go on strike will likely worsen the situation.
The Public and Commercial Services Union represents 1,000 workers at Heathrow. Spokesman Richard Simcox said: “We will be striking and it will either cause more delays or lead to untrained staff waving people through without proper checks.”
According to The Times, it has emerged that plans to recruit 300 extra staff to tackle the current long queues at airports, especially Heathrow, has not been met favourably by ministers. Immigration Minister Damian Green is worried about the political consequences of hiring such a number only shortly after cutting 800 frontline border control jobs as part of Government spending cuts. A further 700 staff are due to go by 2014-15.
The proposals will be looked at by other officials however, but no decisions will be made until the new head of the new Border Force has assessed staffing levels. In the meantime, staff from Manchester airport have been flown down to Heathrow to help ease queuing times.