UK Border Agency Employees Plan Strike before Olympics Games Commences

The UK Border Agency (UKBA), the UK government’s border control authority and a part of the Home Office, has reported industrial action by staff, which may lead to further delays at immigration counters before the Olympic games commence.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, which are employed by the Home Office, have announced a strike on July 26, 2012, due to a long-running disagreement over issues that include job cuts, reimbursement and privatisation.

The industrial action will affect London Heathrow Airport in particular, as the airport is the entry point for around 90 percent of international visitors flying into the city for the 2012 Olympic Games. Around 105,000 passengers are expected to arrive at the airport on July 23, 2012, while July 26, 2012, a day before the commencement of the Olympics Games, is the day that most arrivals are expected.

In a statement, BAA Ltd, owner and operator of six British airports including Heathrow, said, ‘We want all our passengers to have a smooth, secure and enjoyable experience at Heathrow, and so far the Olympic roster introduced by the Home Office is having the desired effect, with immigration waiting times well within their targets. We hope this will continue through the strike action.’

PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said, ‘The lives of staff have been made intolerable by these cuts and they’re at breaking point.

Ministers have known about these issues for a very long time and need to act now to sort out the chaos they have caused.

They’re acting recklessly in cutting so many jobs and privatising services, and are provocatively refusing to talk to us with a genuine desire to reach an agreement.’

 

Government to Implement Plans to Clear Immigration Queues at Airports for Olympic Games

The UK government is planning to implement its special airport plans for the 2012 Olympics games from Sunday, July 15, 2012.

The government’s plans include the addition of around 500 extra Border Force staff at airports during the Olympics, to decrease the long queues at immigration desks, which are a source of annoyance to overseas visitors.

A government report states that 300 Border Force personnel will be joining their counterparts at London Heathrow Airport, which has suffered some of the worst queues at immigration desks in recent times. The airport authority at Heathrow will be keeping all of the immigration desks in the southeast part of the airport open during peak hours, to deal with the influx of visitors.

UK immigration minister, Damian Green, said in a statement, ‘We are not waiting for the Olympics to start. In a matter of days there will be more than 500 extra passport-trained staff ready to boost the regular numbers.

Our commitment is that every desk at Heathrow will be staffed during the busy periods.’

The Border Force is currently working with a target of clearing non-EU passengers through immigration within 45 minutes, while the target is 25 minutes for EU travellers.

The situation almost spiralled out of control in April, with travellers reporting long waits at immigration desks, and Damien Green has reported that during that period the Border Force was only meeting its targets 75 percent of the time. The minister has assured travellers that the efficiency of immigration desks has currently been streamlined to achieve the required targets almost 90 percent of the time.

Heathrow Airport Reports Long Queues at Immigration

Long delays at London Heathrow Airport immigration counters are showing little sign of improving, and with the 2012 Olympic Games being just around the corner, difficulties faced by visiting games fans are again surfacing as a potential nightmare.

While the situation has been fluctuating recently, travellers are reporting delays of more than 90 minutes at immigration counters manned by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), the UK government’s border control authority, and a part of the Home Office.

BAA Ltd, the owner and operator of six British airports, including London Heathrow, has said, ‘Immigration is a matter for the Home Office. The Home Office has said that from July 15, all Border Force desks at Heathrow will be open during peak arrival periods.

Immigration waiting times for passengers during peak periods at Heathrow in the last few days have been unacceptably long.’

The UK Border Agency said, ‘We are fully prepared for the busy Olympic period and will be implementing our well rehearsed plans.

This includes staffing all immigration desks at key ports whenever necessary during the peak Olympic and Paralympic arrivals period.’

Commenting on the long queues at Heathrow, Chris Bryant, MP, and shadow immigration minister, for Labour Party, said, ‘The home secretary and the immigration minister assured parliament that the full summer capacity would be in place by now.

Theresa May has had long enough to plan for this summer. As we run up to the Olympics, Britain cannot afford either the queues the Government’s cuts produced this spring, or the lax security checks they ran last summer.’

Strike Causes More Delays at UK Immigration Desks

Air Passengers arriving at UK airports on May 10, 2012 are warned of fresh problems and should prepare themselves for delays and disruption, as members of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), the UK government’s immigration agency and a part of the Home Office, stage a walkout due to pensions disputes.

The Immigration Service Union (ISU), representing around 4,500 UKBA employees, will be on strike for 24 hours on May 10, 2012. In response to the government’s proposals for pension reform in the public sector, the ISU, in a statement, has said that ‘ISU members cannot work until their late 60s. Their jobs are too physically demanding’, and urged the government not to implement the changes.

In a statement, British Airways, a UK-based airline has said that it is ‘planning to operate a normal schedule and will continue to speak with the UK Border Agency in order to minimise any inconvenience to arriving passengers.’

Gatwick Airport has stated, ‘The UK Border Force is taking industrial action for 24 hours from 00.01 on Thursday May 10. During the planned strike, we will be working closely with UKBF to make sure that there’s as little disruption as possible to airport operations, however, passengers may experience some delays at the Border Zone.’

Heathrow Airport passengers are already facing massive queues at immigration, due to a reduction in the Border Agency task force, which has seen the government and corporate sector both demanding a quick resolution. The current strike will only serve to compound the problems at UK airports.

Heathrow Airport Queues Remain Cause of Concern

Long waiting times at the Heathrow Airport immigration counters are fast becoming one of the UK’s biggest nightmares, with the 2012 Olympic Games being just around the corner.

While the situation is already spiralling downwards, with travellers reporting more than two hours wait at the immigration counters manned by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), the UK government’s border control agency and a part of the Home Office, things may reach an impasse if the two unions representing immigration workers go on a strike on May 10, following a recent dispute over pension issues.

Anne Godfrey, the chief executive officer of the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC), a professional association for UK-based travel management companies, said in an interview, ‘The current chaos at Heathrow’s border control is affecting all travellers but, as an organisation representing business travellers, we are especially concerned of the effect these delays are having on the sector.

The fast-track facility for business travel passengers – supposedly to speed things up – is a joke and makes absolutely no difference.’

A number of UK MPs have called for an explanation for the queuing problem from immigration minister, Damian Green, at a parliamentary committee meeting scheduled for May 15.

Rob Whiteman, the chief executive officer of the UK Border Agency, will also be required to explain the reasons behind the problem before the parliamentary committee and representatives from BAA Ltd, the owner and operator of London Heathrow Airport and certain representatives of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, at the May 15 meeting.