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Rail workers, Border Force staff and driving examiners resume strike action | UK News

Rail workers, Border Force staff and driving examiners are resuming strike action today, with commuters warned of serious delays as they return to work.

It comes after a day of travel chaos despite a rail strike by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ Union (RMT) coming to an end, with crowds of people left waiting at major train stations across London and many journeys delayed due to the late handover of engineering works.

Here is a list of those striking today:
Members of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) at Great Western Railway will walk out from noon to 11.59am on Thursday
• West Midlands Trains will strike for 24 hours from noon until the same time on Thursday
• Driving examiners from the Public and Commerical services (PCS) union at 71 test centres will launch a five-day strike
• Border Force officers at the same union will begin a four-day strike at six airports

Rail unions have launched strike action over a dispute with the government and rail companies about pay, job cuts and changes to terms and conditions, saying they should be given a pay offer to reflect the rising cost of living.

West Midlands Trains said that none of its services would be running from Wednesday morning as a result of the TSSA strike.

TSSA organising director Nadine Rae said its members are “sick and tired of being taken for granted” and “deserve a pay rise to manage the escalating cost of living”.

“The company, like all the train operators under the control of the Department for Transport, need to face up to the fact that only serious offers which meet our aspirations will end this dispute,” she said.

‘Put some money on the table’

Network Rail has told passengers to prepare for “significantly disrupted” travel into the new year amid the wave of industrial unrest.

At the same time, driving instructors, who are part of the PCS union and employed by the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency, will walk out of test centres across eastern England and the Midlands.

They are set to return to work on 1 January.

“Our members have been offered a pay rise of just 2% at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is above 10%,” PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said.

“These strikes could be called off tomorrow if Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt put some money on the table.”

Border Force officers at Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester and Glasgow airports and the port of Newhaven will resume strikes in the same dispute, and will return to work on New Year’s Eve.

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What is industrial action?

Unions trying to find ways to stage more strikes

Meanwhile, unions are looking at ways to stage further strikes by splitting ballots by job titles rather than holding a single vote, according to reports.

The i newspaper reported that the TSSA is poised to let different sections of its membership vote at different times in order to carry out multiple walkouts per week.

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The Department for Transport has described the reports as “incredibly disappointing” and urged unions to “step back, reconsider and get back around the table”.

“After two years of virtual Christmases, the British public deserve better than to have their festive celebrations impacted by strikes,” a spokesman said.

“The transport secretary and rail minister have worked hard to facilitate a fair and reasonable offer, which two unions have accepted, and it is incredibly disappointing that some continue to strike.”

Passengers ‘waved through’ Border Control to ‘avoid queues’ as workers strike | UK News

Suspicious passengers who might otherwise be stopped at Border Control at airports are being “waved through” by military personnel standing in for striking workers.

Two Border Force staff members told Sky News that passengers were being waved through to avoid queues during strikes and that military personnel do not have the power to stop or detain people.

Members of the Armed Forces are providing cover for public services during strikes over winter.

One Border Force officer at Manchester Airport said several members of staff told them that arriving passengers who would normally be questioned are being “waved through in order to avoid queues building up amid strikes”.

They added: “This order is said to have come from management at Manchester Airport. This would mean that people who are potentially unlawfully entering the UK/wanted by the authorities or police/on a watch list/previously refused entry are entering the UK unchecked.”

Around 1,000 Border Force staff in the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union are striking over pay and conditions from 23 December to Boxing Day.

A Border Force staff member at Heathrow Airport told Sky News that the army on immigration control “can’t stop or detain people” as they cannot issue a form known as an IS81.

The form gives immigration officers the authority to detain people for further questioning.

People wait in the arrivals hall at terminal 5 of Heathrow airport

The staff member added: “Our job is to protect the population and the British public, to protect jobs, people from harm.

“Basically the vast majority of the job can’t be done. I have the information from multiple people. If you cannot issue an IS81, you cannot stop someone. All you can do is let them through.

“Managers left managing the control is that unless there is direct evidence of criminality, they are not to stop them. People who are coming in to work illegally, live illegally, study illegally – and that’s not criminal, it’s an immigration issue. Unless you’re aware that this person is a hit on the computer system, wanted by the police, you can’t hold anybody up.”

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “No one’s being stopped because the government has adopted a sticking plaster approach to this problem.

“We warned before the strikes started that military personnel with five days’ training wouldn’t be able to do the jobs of experienced, professional Border Force officers.”

A Home Office spokesperson said it has “robust plans in place to minimise any delays, passengers should be prepared for disruption and take action to plan ahead”.

A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: “To be absolutely clear, we as the airport operator are not involved in the immigration process… to our knowledge, the immigration process is operating as normal.”

Border Force workers, ambulance crews and DWP staff among those joining Christmas strikes this week | UK News

Strikes will continue across a number of industries this week in an escalating campaign of industrial action, with Border Force workers among those expected to walk out.

The strike by more than 1,000 Border Force employees will affect passport control desks at Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow airports from Friday until Boxing Day, and then from 28 December until New Year’s Eve.

More than 10,000 flights are scheduled to land at those airports during those times and it is feared that the strikes could see people waiting more than two hours in passport queues during the peak Christmas holiday period.

According to a report in The Times, contingency plans are being drawn up that would see passengers held on arriving flights to prevent overcrowding in arrival halls.

The newspaper quoted a source involved in discussions as saying: “Border Force are talking about moving staff around the country but it is a very busy period.

“Delays of two hours at the border are being routinely discussed in meetings.

“If everything backs up, or anything fails (such as e-gates), then airports will have to instruct that passengers are held on planes to prevent overcrowding.”

Some airlines have already taken action to limit the fall-out.

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Christmas travel abroad: ‘Think carefully’, home secretary says

On Friday, it was revealed that British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are limiting ticket sales for flights to Heathrow during the Border Force strike days.

Both airlines are letting customers move their travel to a non-strike day, and they are also keeping schedules and ticket restrictions under review.

Read more:
Giving in to nurses on pay would ‘stoke’ inflation and have ‘huge impact’, says minister
Troops training at Heathrow and Gatwick airports ahead of Border Force strikes

Ambulance workers will also begin their industrial action this week, with 10,000 staff in England and Wales expected to walk off the job on Wednesday.

All three main ambulance unions – Unison, GMB, and Unite – will be involved, while GMB members will strike again on 28 December.

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Govt concerns for NHS care

The government has announced plans to deploy 1,200 soldiers to staff ambulances and passport control, but union bosses have said the military are not “sufficiently trained” for these roles.

And head of the armed forces, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, told The Sunday Telegraph that the armed forces are busy and need to “focus on our primary role”.

Meanwhile, Royal College of Nursing members will strike for a second time on Tuesday in parts of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, with the union saying the government has 48 hours from the end of the strike to agree to pay discussions – or face more extensive industrial action next year.

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Nurses strikes a ‘shame’ for Sunak

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has continued to resist calls to negotiate on pay, instead suggesting discussion about other issues that “matter to staff”.

Have you had an appointment cancelled? Share your NHS experience with Sky

He has said the nurses’ pay demands are “not affordable” and that the government is accepting recommendations from an independent pay review body “in full”.

Other strikes this week include rail workers, driving examiners, highways workers, postal workers, and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff.

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Strikes: Can a resolution be found?

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) in Liverpool and Doncaster who are employed by the DWP will take action from today until Christmas Eve and again from 29-31 December.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The first week of our strikes has already caused disruption to farmers awaiting payments, learner drivers waiting to pass their tests and those using our roads – and it’s only going to get worse unless the government puts some money on the table.

“Our members carry our important jobs, keeping the country running, and deserve much more than the 2% pay rise they’ve been offered.”

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A DWP spokesperson said: “We greatly value the work of our staff but the PCS union’s demands would cost the country an unaffordable £2.4bn when the focus must be on bringing down inflation to ease the burden on households, protect the vulnerable and rebuild our economy.

“Benefits, the state pension and child maintenance payments are paid automatically and people who rely on that support will continue to receive it.”

The Cabinet Office is expected to publish a new “resilience framework” today, bringing together all levels of government and including the private sector, charities and the public to “bolster” the UK’s preparedness for industrial action.

Christmas travel hit again by strikes as Border Force set for airport walkouts | UK News

Border Force workers across UK airports and ports will take strike action on key dates in December as their union calls for the government to come back to the negotiating table.

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

And the officers taking the action will be those responsible for checking the passports of people arriving into the country.

It comes amid a raft of strikes set to hit festive travel, with industrial action organised by train, bus and road workers in the run up to Christmas and throughout the holiday season.

But the pickets are not limited to transport, with teachers, nurses and ambulance workers among others from the public sector taking action over pay and conditions.

The Public and Commercial Services union said they were taking their action due to rows with the government over pay, the threat of job cuts and changes in pension rules.

They are calling for a 10% pay rise, better job security and no cuts to redundancy terms.

General secretary of the union, Mark Serwotka, said 40,000 of its members were having to use food banks, while 45,000 were claiming in work benefits

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

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

“The public sector have 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.”

A Border Force officer checks passports of arrival passengers in  Terminal 2 The Queen Terminal at Heathrow Airport, which opened for the first time to the public.
The latest round of strikes will see Border Force officers responsible for checking passports walkout

The PCS union said 86% of its 100,000 members across 124 government departments and public sector employers voted in favour of strike action, calling it “unprecedented”.

A number of pickets had already been announced by its members, including driving instructors and highways officials.

But as well as today’s addition of the Border Force strikes, the union said it would “escalate in the new year if this action doesn’t get the government to sit around the negotiating table” – pointing to further workers in immigration and the Port of Dover willing to go out.

“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,” said Mr Serwotka.