Border Force strike at Heathrow suspended

PCS union holds off on walkout in bid to leave room for talks over planned changes to shift patterns
Border Force agents were set to walk out this week. Photo: Imagedoc/Alamy Stock Photo

The PCS union has suspended a strike planned for this week at Heathrow Airport to enable further negotiations with the Home Office in its dispute over working patterns.

Last month, PCS announced that Border Force staff who carry out immigration controls and passport checks at the airport would walk out over changes to shift patterns that it said had led to more than 150 officials opting for voluntary redundancy. It predicts that up to 250 civil servants could be “forced out of their jobs” by the end of this month.

Strikes were slated to run from 11 to 14 April, backed by 90% of staff who voted in the union's ballot.

But the union has now suspended the strike “in a spirit of collaboration”.

It said the Home Office had sought “clarification” on a strike notice the union issued on 28 March, opening the door for negotiation.

"Until now, the Home Office has refused to withdraw its proposals or to amend the new roster in any meaningful way," PCS said in a statement.

The union will be pushing the department to change its plans to introduce a new fixed roster from 29 April, which it has said would move staff into new teams and make it harder for them to swap to different shifts.

The proposed changes would also move all staff onto an annualised hours allowance (AHA) system, under which they would receive an extra allowance in exchange for Border Force having control over when their hours are worked, and being able to change shifts at short notice.

At the moment, some Border Force officials are working under a legacy system that means their shifts are split over five days rather than four. They also cannot be forced to work overtime or made to work two hours over their rostered hours.

The plans could also lead to some staff who are already on the AHA pattern losing flexible working arrangements or reasonable adjustments.

PCS general secretary Fran Heathcote said: “This is a significant move on the part of PCS that demonstrates a genuine will to work constructively in devising a new roster system that is acceptable to our members, particularly those with disabilities or those with caring responsibilities.

“This does not end the dispute. It is an opportunity for the Home Office to demonstrate they are genuinely seeking a resolution.”

CSW has approached the Home Office for a comment.

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