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Heathrow Passport Control

Heathrow Passport Control. Photo: dannyman / Wikimedia Commond / CC BY 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

Following BA cargo and other airport workers, PCS members working in Passport control have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action, reports Yonas Makoni

Passport control staff at Heathrow Airport voted to strike on 1 February after management forced through changes to rosters that will make working hours less flexible and impact workers with caring responsibilities and disabilities. 96.4% of voters said yes on a 68% turnout. This will make passport control staff, employed by the Home Office, the third group of workers at Heathrow to go on strike this year after Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) staff and the victorious British Airways cargo handlers.

The rota changes will ban shift swapping and end the ability of workers to choose their desired shifts. According to PCS, the changes will discriminate against staff with disabilities and caring responsibilities, who have relied on the flexible rota system. They say that the Home Office has not adequately lived up to its legal obligation towards staff with protected characteristics.

The Home Office claims that it is pushing through these changes in order to better allow staff to work in bubbles due to Covid. It did so, however, without consulting the union and after having already been slow to introduce safety measures such as PPE, temperature checks and screens.

The union also believes that the Home Office is using Covid as a cover for pushing through changes that have been planned for a long time. In this respect, they are following the precedent set by HAL and British Airways, who used Covid as a pretext to push through aggressive fire-and-rehire reforms.

Passport control staff have reason to feel emboldened, however. The cargo workers suspended their second round of strikes after BA dropped all their fire-and-rehire threats and reinstated all workers who had refused to sign the new agreements. HAL workers, including firefighters, engineers and baggage operations, will be striking again on 5 February to avoid pay cuts of up to 25%.

Across Britain, a growing wave of workers is beginning to realise that they have the power to determine their conditions. If they fight, they can win and we must support their struggle as much as possible.

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