Holiday plans of families ruined over the strike
Thousands of passport workers have gone on strike in a dispute over staff numbers and pay, BBC reported. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said the action was a “bid to end staffing shortages that have caused the ongoing backlog crisis”.
Home Office figures suggest about 360,000 passport applications are currently being processed – but it is not clear how many are overdue. The Home Office warned the PCS action could jeopardise people’s holidays. The 24-hour strike will continue until midnight.
BBC News correspondent Richard Lister said the Passport Office had “struggled to cope with an unprecedented number of applications” this year. “With the summer holiday season now well under way the agency is still under enormous pressure to keep up with demand,” he said. In June the Home Office redeployed hundreds of staff to deal with a growing backlog of applications, amid reports of people waiting up to two months for passports that are meant to be processed within three weeks.
The government has said the number of full-time equivalent staff at the Passport Office fell from 3,700 at the end of 2010 to 3,164 two years later, but then rose to 3,333 by the end of 2013. The Home Office estimates that around 170,000 passports are processed per week.
PCS said the office had “cut hundreds of staff since 2010” and only agreed to “seriously discuss jobs after recent media and political scrutiny”. It said there had been talks in recent weeks but senior Passport Office staff were “still failing to commit to work with the union to agree a long-term solution to understaffing, instead of the sticking plasters they are currently applying”.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We are still a long way off getting a commitment from the agency that it will work with us to put the proper resources in place to ensure these backlogs do not reoccur year after year.”
The union is also in dispute with the government over pay, claiming Passport Office workers can be paid up to £3,000 less than people doing “similar work” in other parts of the Home Office.