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Christmas travel hit by new strikes as Border Force announce airport walkouts

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UK Border Force employees at UK airports and ports are the latest workers to go on strike on key dates in December as their union urges the government to return to talks.

Strikes will take place at Birmingham, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, and Manchester airports, as well as the Port of Newhaven, between the 23rd and 26th of December, and from the 28th to the 31st of December.

The officers taking action will be those in charge of checking the passports of visitors to the country, which is likely to result in long queues at the airports.

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The announcement comes amid a number of strikes set to disrupt holiday travel, with train, bus, and road workers organising strike action in the run-up to Christmas and throughout the holiday season.

However, the pickets are not limited to transportation, as teachers are also set for a walkout.

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The Public and Commercial Services(PCS) union announced the strike in response to disagreements with the government over pay, the threat of job cuts, and changes in pension rules.

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They are demanding a 10 percent pay increase, increased job security, and no changes to redundancy terms.

Mark Serwotka, the union's general secretary, said 40,000 of its members were forced to use food banks, while 45,000 were claiming work benefits.

"This is a crisis," he added. "We have tried for months to negotiate with the government and we have been ignored.

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"We keep being told the government has an open door, but there is no point in the door being open if there is nothing behind that door.

"The public sector has no option other than to take industrial action because our members currently are skipping meals, not being able to put the heating on at home because of the poverty they are living in."

The PCS union said “86 percent of its 100,000 members throughout 124 departments and public sector employers ruled in support of strike action, which it called "unprecedented."

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Members of the union, including driving instructors and highway officials, had already announced a number of pickets.

However, in addition to the Border Force strikes, the union has said it will "escalate in the new year if this action does not get the government to sit around the negotiating table," pointing to additional workers in immigration and the Port of Dover inclined to go out.

Mr. Serwotka said: "Our action is designed to get the government to see sense and give our members money to stop them using foodbanks, which is the least they deserve,".

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But immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the decision to strike was "unjustifiable and will ruin the plans of thousands of families and businesses across the country".

He said: "While we are working closely with all UK ports and airports and have robust plans in place to minimise any delays if strike action goes ahead, passengers should be prepared for their plans to be severely disrupted.

"Those intending to travel over strike days should keep up-to-date with the latest advice from operators before making journeys this Christmas."

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The Airport Operators' Association echoed the disappointment from the Home Office, saying UK airports had "worked tirelessly to tackle several challenges since the reopening of international travel in order to provide a high level of service to passengers".

The spokesperson added: "We urge Border Force, the Home Office, and all government departments to get back around the table to resolve these strikes before they begin or put in place concrete and deliverable contingency measures to keep the border operating smoothly."

A spokesperson for Gatwick Airport also said they were "disappointed" by the move to strike, but said they hoped "a settlement to this dispute can be found as quickly as possible".

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They added: "We expect that flights will operate as normal and remain in regular contact with Border Force about their mitigation plans. Additional airport staff will also be made available to help with passenger welfare on strike days."

Source: Sky News

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