Passengers traveling into the UK during a strike by Border Force staff over the holiday period should prepare for the prospect of long delays and a remote possibility that airports could close, a senior Border Force official has said.
The warning came as a senior Home Office source said soldiers and civil servants covering for striking Border Force staff would not have the skills needed to spot modern slavery victims.
Steve Dann, the chief operating officer of Border Force, said the government had a “reasonable expectation” that it would be able to keep “most if not all ports open” but he would not rule out closures when staff go on strike from Friday.
“Military personnel and volunteers from across the civil service have been trained to support Border Force at airports and ports during the festive period. We have a reasonable expectation that by using contingency workforce we will be able to deliver a service that keeps most if not all ports are open. However, the general public should expect disruption,” he said.
Passengers should contact their airlines or travel company to check that their flights are operating as planned, he added.
About 1,000 Border Force staff who are members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union will strike every day from Friday to the end of the year, except December 27. More than 10,000 flights are scheduled to land at the airports during that time, equaling to 2m airline seats.
Action is being taken in a dispute over pay, pensions and conditions by workers at Heathrow, Birmingham, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow and Manchester airports, and the port of Newhaven in East Sussex.