Immigration officers strike threatens chaos for travellers
Passengers arriving in Britain next week face the threat of border delays because of a strike by immigration staff.
By David Millward, Transport Editor
Published: 3:10PM BST 16 Sep 2010
ISU formerly the Immigration Service Union has said its members will walk out for 48 hours starting at midnight next Thursday following a dispute over rosters.
It will be the first strike in the history of a traditionally non-militant union, which is not affiliated to the TUC.
This is the latest sign of growing industrial unrest, especially in the transport in recent months.
The rail network is embroiled in a number of disputes, mainly involving the hard-line RMT transport union.
British Airways has still to reach an agreement with its cabin crew who staged 22 days of strikes earlier in the year.
A walkout by more nearly 2,500 immigration officers threatens to wreak havoc, irrespective of any contingency measures adopted by the UK Border Agency, the union said.
“It will have a major impact on anyone hoping to travel to Britain by sea, Eurostar or air,” said Stuart Band, the union's vice chairman.
“Given that we represent 84 per cent of immigration staff we expect all our members will go out on strike.”
With the union also representing managerial grades, the UK Border Agency could find its contingency plans will also be hindered.
The likeliest impact will be lengthy immigration queues with desks left uncovered as a result of the industrial action.
A spokesman for Gatwick admitted a strike by immigration officers would have a significant impact on the operation of the airport. Heathrow, however, was more optimistic it would be able to cope.
A planned stoppage will hit not only airports but also ferry terminals. ISU members stationed at outposts in Paris, Brussels and at the Channel Tunnel entrance at Coquelles in northern France.
A shortage of immigration officers at French Channel ports, where they are based, could also see some delays for motorists and foot passengers using ferry services.
Lin Homer, Chief Executive, UK Border Agency said the efforts would be made to minimise disruption, but added that people coming into the country could face delays.
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