A 24-hour strike that threatens to bring further misery to passengers arriving at UK airports, including London Heathrow, will start as early as this evening.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union confirmed this morning that its members - including thousands of immigration staff - whose shifts start from 19.00hrs today will not turn up for work.
The 24-hour strike officially runs from midnight, but PCS spokesman Richard Simcox said some members whose shifts overlap the strike period would start industrial action earlier and finish later.
"There will be some knock-on effect into Friday morning as well," he said.
The PCS, which is striking over the Government's planned pension reforms, represents 250,000 public sector workers, 13,000 of whom work for the Border Agency which is responsible for staffing immigration desks at ports and airports, including Heathrow.
Members of the Immigration Services Union, which represents 4,500 border guards, will also join the strike.
However, Simcox conceded it was possible the industrial strike would not have a huge visible impact on passengers arriving at Heathrow, even though in recent weeks immigration queues at the London airport have exceeded three hours due to a shortage of border guards.
"We expect that the UK Border Agency will throw all its resources, bringing in extra staff and drafting in volunteers, to man passport gates during the strike, but they won't be trained to do the job and in many cases they won't have the right level of security clearance so they won't be able to access the systems the Border Agency uses.
"They will only be able to sit on desks and wave passengers through. They won't be checking passports at the gates, and if that were to go on for any length of time there would be a major incident."
The Home Office said it had contingency plans in place to minimise disruption. Immigration minister Damian Green said: "We are preparing to use our trained pool of backroom staff and Ministry of Defence police to boost staffing levels at ports and airports around the UK."
British Airways said it would continue to operate its normal flight schedule despite the strike.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012