Last November saw a series of public service sector strikes over pensions, in which immigration officials also took part. At the time, we posted advice for our business clients who could be affected by longer waiting times at UK ports and airports.
Unfortunately, yesterday it was reported by the Telegraph and other media outlets that up to 4,600 immigration officials are expected to join a national public service sector strike next Thursday, 10th May 2012.
This comes in the wake of severe criticism by companies and Government ministers over lengthy queues at Heathrow Airport which have been experienced by many these last few days. Non-EU nationals have been held waiting for up to three hours at Terminal 4 and as yet there seem to have been no practical solutions to this situation forthcoming.
The Home Office has drawn up contingency plans to deal with the strike on the 10th May, which involve drafting in Military Police officers and civil servants to man immigration desks. Officials have advised that disruption will be minimal and have asked passengers not to cancel their flights. These assurances are being treated with some scepticism, however, in light of the issues that are currently occurring at Heathrow.
We would advise those business travellers who have not yet booked flights and who need to be in the UK next Thursday, to consider travelling on either the 9th or 11th May. Similarly, if our clients have important business meetings planned on the 10th, and they are also flying into the UK on that day, we would suggest moving the business back a few hours where possible, to compensate for any delays.
Practical tips offered by the UK Border Agency last November can also be put into use next week:
• have travel documents, including passports, available and taken out of any wallets;
• use automatic e-Passport gates (where available)
• have landing cards fully completed and ready; and
• stay in family groups.
We will of course be monitoring the situation closely and will provide further updates when they become available.