UK warns arrivals from Europe to ‘expect delays’ due to border force strike

The UK government has warned that people arriving into the country from Europe over Christmas should expect delays and disruption as border guards go on strike from Friday.

UK warns arrivals from Europe to 'expect delays' due to border force strike
Photo by Ben FATHERS / AFP

The UK Border Force begins a strike on Friday, December 23rd, that is expected to cause major delays and disruption at airports and some ports.

Travellers were warned in a statement: “While the government is taking action to minimise disruption, travellers due to arrive in the UK over the Christmas period are warned to expect delays and disruption over the strike action affecting border control.

“Passengers should be prepared for longer wait times and should check with their travel agents, tour operators and airlines/carriers about possible disruptions to their journey prior to travelling.

“Our eGates will continue to function as per normal and we encourage all those eligible to use them to do so, as the quickest and most efficient way to pass through border control.”

The Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents the majority of border staff at airports, has called a strike between December 23rd and 31st, not including December 27th.

READ ALSO Do UK border strikes affect ferries, trains and the Channel Tunnel?

It is part of a wave of strikes hitting the UK as workers including nurses, paramedics, postal staff and rail workers strike for pay rises to help them cope with the soaring cost of living.

The disruption is expected to be concentrated at airports, although the ferry port of Newhaven is also affected, and is likely to lead to extremely long queues at passport control – some are predicting waits of up to 10 hours.

Affected sites are; Birmingham Airport, Cardiff Airport, Gatwick Airport, Glasgow Airport, Heathrow Airport – Terminals 2,3,4,5, Manchester Airport and Port of Newhaven.

It could also cause some flight cancellations and delays if passengers are not able to disembark at UK airports – travellers are advised to check with their airline before going to the airport.

The UK government has drafted in some members of the military to help run passport control, but this is likely to be a very limited service. 

Those travelling to the UK should also be aware of significant disruption on the railways, also due to strike action. 

You can find full details of travel between France and the UK HERE, or head to Local sites in Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Austria and Denmark for the latest on travel.

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Reader question: Why do French strikes always seem to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays?

If a one-day strike is called in France there is a high chance that it will be on either a Tuesday or a Thursday - here's why.

Reader question: Why do French strikes always seem to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays?

There are two types of strikes in France – unlimited or open-ended strikes that run for days or weeks at a time and single-day actions.

And if it’s a one-day strike, there is a high chance that it will be on either a Tuesday or a Thursday – as we have seen with the latest pension reform strikes which have been called for Thursday, January 19th and Tuesday, January 31st.

This is useful to know if you’re planning a trip and have some flexibility over your days of travel, but this doesn’t just happen by accident.

READ MORE: Calendar: The French pension strike dates to remember

Stéphane Sirot, a historian specialising in the sociology of strikes and trade unionism, explained to French newspaper Le Parisien that it’s all about maximising turnout.

Put simply, unions declare strikes on the days when the greatest number of people are working, in order to have the highest possible number of strikers in order to heap pressure on the employers and/or government. 

For this reason, weekends and public holidays are out because these days tend to have a reduced workforce. Workers who work on weekends, such as train drivers or waste collectors, often take Mondays or Fridays as rest days, so again there is a limited number of people who can strike.

There is another reason Mondays are out, said Sirot; “A sort of ‘battle plan meeting’ is generally held the day before a strike, in order to organise, for example, demonstration plans. However, the union leaders are not going to meet on a Sunday to refine the last points.”

READ MORE: Grève illimitée or générale: 12 bits of French strike vocab you need to know

And Fridays have a further problem: “If a renewable strike starts on a Friday and a day of action is put in place on the following Monday, people working in the public sector will have four days of pay taken away, because the administration considers that they are on strike for the whole period. In order not to deplete the finances of strikers, unions are careful not to organise mobilisations on a Friday.”

And Wednesdays? This is more of a historic reason relating to French schools giving children Wednesday afternoons off – which means that many parents also take the whole of Wednesday or the afternoon off. These days the Wednesday half-day is less common, but it still happens so unions usually avoid Wednesdays as well – leaving Tuesdays and Thursdays the optimum strike days.

You may also have noticed that demos are divided into two kinds – union-organised marches which take place during the week and those organised by political parties which happen at the weekend, usually on Saturdays.

“Union-organised demos usually go together with strikes – which is to say the stopping of the working time. In their eyes, demonstrating on weekends is not unionism,” added Sirot.

Of course, if the one-day strikes turn into une grève illimité (unlimited strike) or une grève reconductible (renewable strikes) they will encompass the whole week.

If you want to keep up with ongoing strike action in France, head to our strike section found HERE.