DALLAS — British military troops are currently training to carry out passport checks and airports in the UK, including London Heathrow (LHR), London Gatwick (LGW), and other airports, amid a planned strike by Border Force workers. The Ministry of Defense confirmed that troops arrived at LHR and LGW earlier this week.
On Wednesday, the PCS union confirmed that Border Force officers will go on strike at airports from December 23 to 26 and from December 28 through 31. This comes as they rejected a 2% pay increase from the government. In addition to LGW and LHR, officers will go on strike at Glasgow (GSW), Manchester (MAN), Cardiff (CWL), Birmingham (BHX), and the Port of Newhaven.
According to the PCS, almost 75% of passport control workers are members, so a larger portion of officers will be on strike. It is expected that almost 1,000 workers will participate in the strike.
The Cabinet Officer announced that 600 military officers and 700 civil servants are being trained in different jobs, including border control at airports if a strike were to occur. The Home Office stated that if the strikes would occur as planned it would lead to longer lines for passport control during one of the busiest travel times of the year.
Impact of Holiday Travel
If the strike were to occur, it would have a major impact on travelers. Between December 23 and December 31, LHR is scheduled to have 1 million passengers travel through the airport, and LGW will have 500,000 passengers travel through the airport during that time.
During normal travel days it is a challenge for border officers to process passengers at immigration, but with a large number of passengers expected to travel for the holidays and New Year’s customs must be well-equipped to handle the larger number of passengers traveling through UK airports.
As a result of these planned strikes, military personnel would likely miss Christmas, according to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. He commented that troops would likely miss the holidays “to help us deal with the disruption from strikes, whether that’s manning border posts or driving ambulances.” He further added, “We all owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.”
Featured image: London Heathrow Airport