London: Passengers at UK airports have been threatened with more disruption next year after a union said Friday's strike by Border Force officials was likely to be the first of many.
Workers kicked off eight days of walkouts stretching to New Year's Eve, with the Public and Commercial Services Union demanding higher pay and more job security for its members. Mark Serwotka, the PCS general secretary, warned of "a huge escalation of this action" in 2023.
Airports and airlines had warned of disruption ahead of the strike, while a senior member of the Border Force suggested some airports could be forced to close.
However, at 9 am on Friday London's Heathrow airport said it was operating as normal and no flights had been canceled.
"The morning arrivals peak has started well," a spokesperson said. "Immigration halls are free-flowing at Heathrow with Border Force and the military contingency providing a good service."
The initial strikes are taking place at Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow and the port of Newhaven, on December 23-26 and 28-31.
"We're in it for the long haul," said Dawn Poole, a Border Force officer on the picket line at Heathrow. "When you can't pay your bills and the debt is increasing, and you've got nowhere to turn, what choice do you have?"
Britain is in the midst of a series of strikes across various sectors including trains, buses, the Royal Mail, civil service and National Health Service. Most concern pay levels, with UK inflation rising above 10 per cent in recent months.
Steve Dann, the Border Force's chief operating officer, said earlier in the week that contingency plans "- which involve other civil servants and members of the military working on passport control "- should be able to keep "most, if not all ports open."
Airports have reduced the number of flights arriving during the strikes, while airlines have been offering passengers the chance to switch to flights outside the strike dates without incurring extra fees or charges.