Page last updated at 17:37 GMT, Monday, 27 July 2009 18:37 UK

Immigration staff vote to strike

A passport being checked
Staff say proposed shift changes would mean a reduction in pay

Holidaymakers are facing disruption after the PCS union said immigration officials working for the UK Border Agency have voted for strike action.

In a ballot, 78% voted to stage a walkout over plans to merge the duties of immigration and customs staff, the PCS's Alex Flynn said.

It gives the go-ahead for a possible two-day strike beginning 5 August.

The UK Border Agency said contingency plans would be put into place to minimise disruption.

In a statement, it said it was "very disappointed that one union branch has taken this action".

But the union said travellers would face delays if the dispute was not resolved and the 1,200 staff affected were to take action.

'Little effect'

The dispute centres around changes to working practices and shift patterns following the merger of immigration and customs staff after the creation of the UK Border Agency.

According to the PCS, the merger means immigration staff would have to carry out custom officers' duties for which they have not been trained, such as strip searches.

Our members want to continue doing the jobs they signed up for
Alex Flynn

The union also says proposed changes to shift patterns would mean a reduction in take-home pay.

Mr Flynn said the union had been holding talks with management which were due to be discussed by the executive committee of the PCS's immigration section.

"Obviously we want to avoid inconveniencing the public," Mr Flynn added.

"But our members want to continue doing the jobs they signed up for.

"Management were trying to introduce changes so that you would have immigration officers doing jobs for which they were not trained."

Jonathan Sedgwick, deputy chief executive of the UK Border Agency said they had made "concerted efforts" to reach an agreement.

"It is revealing that only around 25% of the union's staff voted to strike," he said.

"However, we have taken all necessary steps to ensure the border remains secure and the public protected.

"While we are committed to keep talking to avert any action, we are confident that if it does take place it will have very little effect on the operation of our business."

The results of the PCS ballot come after unions representing 14,000 cabin crew at British Airways have warned of strikes over management plans for job losses and a wage freeze.

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