The Immigration Service Union, which includes most of the passport desk staff among its 4,500 members, said it was notifying the Cabinet Office that it intended to take part in the industrial action next Thursday.
Ministers had announced an extra 80 “back-office” immigration staff were to be drafted in to work on the passport desks at the busiest times, after prime minister David Cameron and home secretary Theresa May agreed it was time to “get a grip” on the unacceptable queues at Heathrow. The move raised hopes that the worst of the passport crisis might be over.
The former head of the UK Border Force, Brodie Clark, voiced concerns over a contingency plan to bring in a 600-strong “volunteer force” to staff border posts during the Olympic Games in July and August, when more than 660,000 extra visitors are expected.
Clark warned that using volunteers from other parts of the UK Border Agency and Revenue and Customs could leave gaps in defending the border against smuggled drugs, weapons and other contraband. He also warned that plans to cancel border staff leave during the Olympics could result in severe difficulties in September and October, when there is a surge in overseas students at the start of the academic year.
Hopes of an immediate respite for passengers facing lengthy passport queues at Heathrow and other British airports have been dashed after immigration border staff announced their intention to join next week’s civil service strike over pensions.