Travellers thinking of last-minute escapes this summer, be warned – you might want to double check the validity of your passport.
Following a summer of travel chaos in 2022 that saw trips cancelled due to the Passport Office’s post-pandemic backlog, queues in major UK terminals as a result of border force strikes and even staycations scrapped due to (still ongoing) rail disruption, this season could be impacted by another series of walkouts.
Between Monday 3 April and Friday 5 May, 2023 more than 1,000 UK Passport Office workers are set to strike for a total of five weeks. The walkouts are a result of ongoing disputes about pay and conditions.
The action is being encouraged by members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and will impact workers across England, Wales and Scotland – the specific offices involved are in Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport, Peterborough and Southport.
The passport office currently employs over 4,000 workers, meaning one in four will participate in the action.
April is a peak month for passport renewal, ahead of the school summer holidays when families finalise details of their time in the (often guaranteed) sunshine outside of the UK. It’s estimated that in excess of a million passport renewal applications could be received by the passport office during the strike period.
In a statement, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union Mark Serwotka said: “This escalation of our action has come about because, in sharp contrast with other parts of the public sector, ministers have failed to hold any meaningful talks with us, despite two massive strikes and sustained, targeted action lasting 6 months.
“Their approach is further evidence they’re treating their own workforce worse than anyone else. They’ve had six months to resolve this dispute but for six months have refused to improve their 2% imposed pay rise and failed to address our members’ other issues of concern.
“They seem to think if they ignore our members, they’ll go away. But how can our members ignore the cost-of-living crisis when 40,000 civil servants are using food banks, and 45,000 of them are claiming the benefits they administer themselves?
“It is a national scandal and a stain on this government’s reputation that so many of its own workforce is living in poverty.”
The Passport Office strikes are the latest in a series of walkouts in several UK industries. Junior doctors, nurses and other NHS workers have gone on strike in recent months, while the travel industry is struggling to flourish after the peak of the coronavirus pandemic due to nationwide rail strikes and airport workers taking a stand against deteriorating working conditions and pay rises that are failing to catch up with inflation.
The cost of passport renewals also rose by nine per cent on Thursday 2 February. Adult passports now cost £82.50 (£93 for postal applications), and child passports cost £53.50 (£64 for postal applications).
We expect discussions to arise from the announced action, but the suggested 10-week wait time for new documents could well get that little bit longer… autumn sun, anyone?