Travel Delays: Passport Office Workers To Go on Five-Week Strike

Passport Office workers
Passport Office workers five-week strike

Government under pressure to resolve strike before holiday period begins…

The right to strike is a fundamental aspect of any democratic society. It is the ability of workers to withdraw their labour in protest of unsatisfactory job conditions, wages, and benefits. However, the exercise of this right is not always straightforward, as demonstrated by the ongoing dispute between the Passport Office and its employees.

As reported by the BBC, more than 1,000 workers at the Passport Office are set to go on strike for five weeks, starting from the end of March 2023. Those working in Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport, Peterborough and Southport will strike from 3 April to 5 May, while those in Belfast will do so from 7 April to 5 May.

The union warned of delays to applications and the delivery of passports in the run-up to summer.

The PCS general secretary, 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 six 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’s a national scandal and a stain on this government’s reputation that so many of its own workforce are living in poverty.”

The action proposed by Passport Office workers comes after months of strikes over pay in other sectors, such as rail, London Underground, schools, regional BBC journalism and universities.

Mike Clancy, the general secretary of Prospect, thousands of whose civil service members went on strike this week, said there was a sense that the government’s own workers were often at the “back of the queue” when it came to pay deals, and he urged ministers to arrange talks to end industrial action “as early as possible next week”.

The dispute centres around a range of issues, including job security, pay, and working conditions. The Passport Office is seeking to make significant changes to the way it operates, including the introduction of new technologies and the closure of some offices. However, the workers fear that these changes will lead to job losses and reduced pay.

The Passport Office argues that it is necessary to modernize its operations in order to remain competitive and efficient. It claims that the changes it is proposing will result in a better service for customers and that there will be no negative impact on the workforce. However, the workers dispute this and argue that the changes will lead to increased workloads and stress, as well as job losses and reduced pay.

The right to strike is a crucial aspect of workers’ rights. It provides employees with the power to voice their concerns and demand changes to their working conditions. However, it is important that the exercise of this right is done responsibly and with consideration for the wider impacts of the strike. In the case of the Passport Office workers, the strike is likely to cause significant disruption to the issuing of passports, particularly during the busy summer holiday period.

This could have knock-on effects for businesses and individuals who rely on passports for travel, it is imperative that the government get around the table and bring this strike action to a negotiated close. The strike will undoubtedly cause disruption and hardship for many people, and it is in everyone’s interest to find a solution that is fair and reasonable.

On Thursday, unions representing healthcare workers in England agreed to a final pay offer with the government, which if accepted is hoped to bring an end to strikes by nurses and ambulance workers.

He said the government should now be looking to make sure the format of its pay deal with the NHS will “read across to its own employees” in the civil service.

Clancy told the Guardian: “There is a recognition in the NHS terms that 22/23 was exceptional and has to still be addressed, and that 23/34 is still a very difficult year, even if there is government hope that there will be a drop in inflation … There has to be a similar structure, and we will then talk about the amounts.

“What I can’t say is that I’ve got an invite to talks and we have been complaining in public about the failure of the government to respond in this way for its own civil servants. But what has been pretty clear in the overall mood music is that the government would want to sort the NHS first, and I think the teaching unions are having conversations.

“I really now expect an invite from the government to talk about its own employees, and that better be as early as possible next week. What we have to judge is whether there is sufficient for us to enter discussions and take a view on what we do in terms of our own action.”

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