UK strikes extend passport control, disrupting holiday travel | Daily News Byte

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LONDON—British passport control staff will go on strike from Friday, becoming the latest civil servants to demand a pay rise to match inflation, signaling that the economic and political upheaval of 2022 is far from over.

About 1,000 passport control workers are expected to walk out of six airports across the country between December 23 and 26 and again between December 28 and 31 to demand wages amid rising inflation. The UK government is preparing to deploy the British military to help staff immigration counters and minimize the impact on arriving passengers, while Heathrow Airport has asked airlines to halt ticket sales during the strike.

The airport turmoil is just the latest strike action to hit Britain, which is in the midst of its biggest series of industrial disputes for more than a decade. Nurses, postal workers, ambulance paramedics and driving instructors are among those who have walked or will walk this week, arguing that pay rises have not come close to the 10.7% inflation rate.

Britons were warned this week by senior National Health Service officials and government ministers not to get drunk or play contact sports in case they needed an ambulance. Train drivers are also set to strike, adding to transport chaos over the Christmas period.

The UK government says paying its workforce more will risk prolonging a period of high inflation and leaving all workers poorer in the coming years.

“The best way to help them and everyone else in the country is for us to get a grip and bring down inflation as quickly as possible,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told lawmakers on Tuesday.

However, private sector workers have seen their salaries rise much faster than their government counterparts. According to the Office for National Statistics, private sector pay was 6.9% higher in the three months to October than a year earlier, while government pay rose just 2.7%.

Pressure is mounting from lawmakers in Mr. Sunak’s Conservative Party who worry that his position is unsustainable. Public opinion is in favor of giving NHS workers better pay deals, poll shows. Nurses in particular have seen a 5% drop in real wages over the past decade, and many have left the profession, according to government data.

The strike means businesses in Britain and the UK are used to disruption to their daily lives. In preparation for the strike, the government has asked London Heathrow Airport to suppress demand for passengers flying into the hub, Britain’s busiest entry point, people familiar with the planning said.

Paramedics, ambulance technicians and call handlers on picket lines in Wales.


Photo:

Ben Birchall/Zuma Press

Heathrow last week tried to ease pressure on border control to halt ticket sales on most inbound flights on strike days with airlines including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd, the people said. The airport is advising passengers, particularly those unable to use electronic immigration gates, to expect long lines to get through the border and to check the status of their flights in the UK.

But despite those disruptions, many Britons continue to support the strikers, although in some cases that support is softening. Two-thirds of Britons support NHS nurses in their fight with the government, while 63% back ambulance staff, 58% back firefighters and 50% back teachers, according to a YouGov poll between 16 and 19 December.

An additional problem for the government is that disruptions caused by widespread strikes further weaken an economy that already lags behind most other rich countries, and that in turn reduces its tax revenue and its ability to pay for public services.

Figures released by the ONS on Thursday showed the economy contracted more than previously estimated in the three months to September and was 0.8% lower than before the Covid-19 pandemic. Those figures also showed that real, disposable household income was 0.5% lower than in the previous quarter, and has been falling for a year, while consumer spending fell 1.1%.

The Bank of England said last week it believed the UK economy was in a recession that would last “for a long time”, but signaled it was likely to raise interest rates as early as 2023, amid other high costs faced by the government. Adds increased bills to pay. workers

With $3 trillion in freight traveling through Chicago each year, the city is the busiest rail hub in the US The WSJ breaks down how important rail is to the region, and how vulnerable the system is to work stoppages like strikes. Picture: Adele Morgan

Write to Paul Hannon at paul.hannon@wsj.com

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