Border Force staff and driving examiners are beginning strikes as travel disruption is expected across railways again, with many commuters returning to work following the Christmas break. Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) members working as Border Force officers at Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester and Glasgow airports and the port of Newhaven are resuming strikes on Wednesday for four days.
The Border Force walkouts are over pay, jobs and conditions as the cost of living rises. Driving examiners have also launched a five-day strike as part of escalating industrial action by civil servants in a dispute over pay, jobs and pensions.
The walk-out involves PCS members in 71 test centres in eastern England and the Midlands who are employed by the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) as driving examiners and local driving test managers. It comes as rail disruption is set to continue with members of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) at Great Western Railway and West Midlands Trains set to go on strike.
TSSA union members at Great Western Railway will walk out from noon to 11.59am on Thursday, and at West Midlands Trains for 24 hours from noon until the same time on Thursday. West Midlands Trains said that none of its services would be running from Wednesday morning as a result of the TSSA strike.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said of the examiners’ strike: “Our members have been offered a pay rise of just 2% at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is above 10%. We know our action will cause widespread disruption and inconvenience to people in eastern England and the Midlands – hundreds of driving tests have been cancelled already in other parts of the country – but the Government is to blame.
“These strikes could be called off tomorrow if Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt put some money on the table.”
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. 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.
Passengers have been told to prepare for “significantly disrupted” travel into the new year amid the wave of industrial unrest sweeping across the country. Network Rail issued the warning amid a series of long-running disputes over pay and working conditions.
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. A spokesperson told the paper: “Rather than balloting everybody in one single ballot, our intention is to split the ballot so that we can ballot station staff separately to controllers, for example, which would give us greater flexibility in when we can call people out for strike action.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “After two years of virtual Christmases, the British public deserve better than to have their festive celebrations impacted by strikes. 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.
“We urge them to step back, reconsider and get back round the table, so we can start 2023 by ending this damaging dispute.”