Britain braced for travel chaos as border guards to strike
HUNDREDS of thousands of passengers face fresh disruption at British airports and ports next week after unions representing border guards announced a one-day strike.
After weeks of criticism over lengthy queues at Heathrow airport, up to 4,600 immigration officials are now set to walk out on May 10 in a dispute about their pensions.
They will co-ordinate their strike with 200,000 public sector workers who have already announced plans for a national day of industrial action.
British Home Office officials last night drew up contingency plans to draft in military police officers and civil servants to man immigration desks.
They said disruption would be "minimal" and advised passengers not to cancel bookings.
However, Border Agency unions warned of queues of up to four hours at already overstretched Heathrow airport because the drafted-in staff would take even longer than normal to process passengers.
Another raised concerns that passengers may simply be waived through without being checked if long queues built up, as they say happened during a Border Agency strike in November.
Around 250,000 people fly into British airports on a typical weekday.
Business leaders condemned the strikes, saying that immigration controls, which have caused queues of up to three hours at Heathrow this week, are already taking a toll on the economy.
Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: "Our border controls are an international embarrassment, putting British jobs and economic growth at risk, and this strike will make that worse."
Immigration minister Damian Green condemned the action. "This strike is completely unnecessary," he said
The unions are in dispute with the government over pension reforms, which will see them working longer, contributing more and receiving less on retirement. (© Daily Telegraph, London)