Page last updated at 12:45 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 13:45 UK

Passport workers strike over pay

Staff picketing outside the London office
Staff said they were also on strike over plans to close regional offices

Workers at seven of Britain's regional passport offices have gone on strike to protest over pay and cutbacks.

The three-day stoppage is intended to disrupt travel plans and may delay the processing of up to 60,000 passports.

As well as the regional offices, the Public and Commercial Services Union said the strike by almost 3,000 staff will affect 68 interview offices.

The protest is over a dispute with a 2.5% pay deal, which has not been awarded to all staff.

The seven regional passport offices affected by the strike are London, Liverpool, Belfast, Glasgow, Peterborough, Newport and Durham.

The longest-serving employees have not received a pay rise for the fifth year running. Staff are also angry at the government's passport office closure programme.

It is disgraceful that long-serving passport staff should receive no pay rise for the fifth year in a row
Mark Serwotka, Public and Commercial Services Union

The industrial action means that anyone who discovers their passport has expired may have to miss their holiday.

New documents can usually be obtained in one day for an extra charge.

And people waiting for ordinary passport applications to be processed will also face delays.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The closure of the Glasgow passport office and the threat to a further unnamed three is fuelling the anger over the government's policy of below inflation pay.

"It is disgraceful that long-serving passport staff should receive no pay rise for the fifth year in a row and that efficient hardworking staff should be rewarded with a pay cut in real terms."

An Identity and Passports Service spokesman said: "IPS will strive to maintain a service to the public and keep any inconvenience to a minimum during the period of the strikes.

We believe that the pay deal was fair for staff while keeping in line with treasury guidelines
Identity and Passports Service

"All IPS regional office counters will remain open and we are able to issue passports for those in emergency situations or with urgent needs.

"Any customer who has booked for premium services or an interview will have the appointment honoured.

"We believe that the pay deal was fair for staff while keeping in line with treasury guidelines."

At the Liverpool passport office in Old Hall Street, staff carried placards saying: "Don't stamp out our service".

'No point'

Rob Barton, 52, has worked there for six years and suggested that the strike was for the benefit of customers and staff.

He said: "Nobody is happy about it because the chances are a lot of us are going to be made redundant. It is going to be 50/50, as far as I understand it, whether this office stays open or not."

Dennis Long, 25, was told he could not board his flight to Crete on Wednesday night after check-in staff noticed the laminate on his passport was peeling up at the edges.

The painter and decorater from Heathrow called the London office on Thursday morning to try and get an emergency appointment for a new passport but was told there was "no point" in coming down as staff were on strike.

He said: "I can't believe it - I was just told not to bother and offered no options of what else I could do.

"I work all year, I pay my taxes and because of this I've missed a 550 holiday."

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Travel writer Simon Calder on how the passport strike will affect people

More information can be obtained by contacting the passport advice line on 0870 521 0410.


SEE ALSO
Passport staff join strike action
18 Jul 08 |  Northern Ireland

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