Passengers expected to face ‘two hour queues’ at Gatwick amid strikes, says airport boss
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Strikes by Border Force staff could last for up to six months, a union has warned as workers walk out for the first time today in a row over pay and conditions.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, urged ministers to “get around the negotiating table” and make a better pay offer.
“Our strike mandate lasts right up until May,” he told the BBC earlier this morning. “We will be supporting this action up to May and we would re-ballot again if we have to.”
Air passengers have been warned to expect delays after Border Force staff who usually check passports start their strike action.
Striking Border Force staff are joined by employees at the National Highways, Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and the Royal Mail in staging walkouts.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Network Rail are to strike again tomorrow, with passengers warned to travel by rain if “absolutely necessary”.
In other travel news, a severe traffic warning has been issued to drivers as millions of people embark on Christmas getaway journeys.
Show latest update
Who is striking and when?
As we’ve been reporting, a number of public sector organisations are striking in a row over pay and conditions.
Border Force and postal workers walked out today and join nurses and rail workers in withdrawing their labour.
More strikes are planned for the remainder of the month.
My colleague Joe Sommerlad takes a look at who is striking and when:
Matt Mathers23 December 2022 13:00
Ambulance staff strike called off
The GMB union has called off a strike of ambulance workers on 28 December so the public can “enjoy Christmas without the additional anxiety”.
They have instead announced a new strike on 11 January, the same day that ambulance workers who are members of the Unison union will also stage a walkout.
My colleague Holly Bancroft has the story:
Matt Mathers23 December 2022 12:45
Midday update: Fears of travel chaos at airprots unfounded
Fears that passengers at six British airports could be waiting for hours for passport control have proved unfounded on the first day of the strike by UK Border Force staff, Simon Calder, our travel correspondent, reports.
At Heathrow, the UK’s busiest hub, nearly 30,000 passengers have passed through the border during the morning. Queuing times were reported by one official as “virtually at zero”.
Strikes: Simon Calder reports from Gatwick Airport amid Border Force mass walkout
Passengers arriving at Gatwick are also reporting a smooth process through the border. Ash Tilbury reported: “No queue at LGW at all. Landed at 11:15 and we’re just waiting for luggage which I watched being unloaded as soon as the plane stopped.”
A spokesperson for Birmingham airport told The Independent: “This morning we had UK Border Force staff and RAF personnel jointly running our customs and immigration process.
“It ran smoothly with maximum wait times of 18 minutes for passengers arriving from, for instance, Bridgetown, Barbados, during our morning travel peak.”
Sneha Mistri, a passenger arriving at the West Midlands airport, said: “Just landed at Birmingham from Madrid. Through the automatic gates in passport control in less than five minutes.”
At Manchester, Paul Simon tweeted: “Landed on EK17 Dubai-Manchester at 11:35. Royal Navy checked passports luggage collected and on the M56 by 12:10.”
Matt Mathers23 December 2022 12:28
Breaking: Elizabeth Line workers to strike on 12 January
Workers on London’s Elizabeth Line will strike on 12 January in a dispute over pay and pensions, Prospect and the TSSA rail union announced.
More details to follow shortly.
Matt Mathers23 December 2022 12:25
Elizabeth Line workers to strike in new year
Workers on London’s Elizabeth Line are to strike early next year in a dispute over pay and pensions, it has been announced.
Members of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) and Prospect will walk out on January 12.
Officials said the action by staff at Rail for London (Infrastructure) Limited will cause “significant disruption “ to the new cross-London line in the first strike since it opened earlier this year.
Matt Mathers23 December 2022 12:20
Gatwick trains disrupted by multiple cancellations
Further updates now from our travel correspondent Simon Calder, who is keeping an eye out for disruption today amid the strikes:
Passengers arriving at Gatwick airport are reporting smooth progress through the UK Border – but then encountering problems with onward transport by train to London, Brighton, Cambridge, Peterborough and Bedford.
All these destinations are served by Thameslink, but by 1pm the train operator had cancelled 55 services on the line through Gatwick.
The aim said: “A shortage of available train crew means that Thameslink services will be disrupted throughout today, Friday 23 December.”
On Christmas Eve, the last trains to and from Gatwick airport are at around 2pm ahead of the next Network Rail strike by members of the RMT union.
Matt Mathers23 December 2022 12:15
‘Where have you been?’
A reporter asked prime minister Rishi Sunak “where have you been?” amid strike action by a number of public sector organisations.
Mr Sunak said he was “really sad” and “disappointed” to see that walkouts by Border Force, Royal Mail and other workers had gone ahead.
Unions organising the industrial action have accused the government of failing to engage in talks on pay and conditions.
The PM and other ministers say they are sticking to the recommendations made by the independent pay review body which sets public sector workers’ pay.
Ministers ultimately decide whether or not to accept the recommendations.
‘Where have you been?’: Rishi Sunak confronted by reporter over strikes and travel chaos
Matt Mathers23 December 2022 12:00
Royal Mail: Will post and packages be delayed by the postal strikes?
Royal Mail workers are also striking today in a row over pay and conditions.
The postal service has warned “services will be affected” by the walkouts.
“Royal Mail has well-developed contingency plans, but we cannot fully replace the daily efforts of our frontline workforce,” it said in a statement.
My colleague Joe Sommerlad has more details below:
Matt Mathers23 December 2022 11:44
Gatwick passport control the smoothest part of a disrupted trip
At Gatwick airport, student Charlotte Coats has been relating her nightmare journey from New York City – attempting to reach a family gathering in Skye, Simon Calder, our travel correspondent, reports.
Ms Coats, who is studying at Columbia University, was booked from New York via Boston to Gatwick on Wednesday night.
“Unfortunately I didn’t get on the Boston flight [to Gatwick] so I had to spend 24 hours in Boston.”
She said that staff at Boston Logan airport then “bumped” her from the Gatwick flight.
“I had a fit at the check in, they put me back on the flight. I’ve got to London and had to book a flight to Inverness because my father’s already had to drive to Scotland.
“I’m going to Inverness, and then I’ve got to get over to the west coast, up near Skye.”
The easyJet flight to Inverness this afternoon cost an extra £200. But Ms Coats said that the border experience at Gatwick was the one smooth part of her trip.
“It was fantastic, the Navy were there, I cannot complain.”
Matt Mathers23 December 2022 11:26
Breaking: Nurses to strike again on 18 & 19 Jan if no progress made on pay
Nurses in England will strike again on 18 and 19 January in an escalation of their pay dispute with the UK government.
The Royal College of Nursing said they would walk out unless negotiations on pay are opened.
The government has said it is sticking to the recommendations of the independent pay review body which sets public sector wokers’ pay.
My colleague Holly Bancroft reports:
Matt Mathers23 December 2022 11:03