London: Border guards are suing the Government because they claim their new uniforms are causing painful skin conditions.
The Home Office spent £3 million (Dh18.8 million) on the navy blue outfits for UK Border Force workers last year.
But around 250 employees are taking legal action after claiming the material has left them with chemical-style burns, rashes and other ailments.
Some have apparently even had to wear silk clothing beneath their uniforms.
And asthma sufferers are also said to have experienced problems.
The employees are bringing personal injury claims thought to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Lawyers for the guards — whose tasks include manning passport control — say that they have suffered skin irritations because of dyes and other chemicals in the uniforms, which are manufactured in Bangladesh.
Lucy Moreton, general secretary of the ISU trade union, which represents 5,000 Border Force staff, said: “We have members who now have to wear silk ‘burn garments’ beneath their uniforms to keep the material off their skin.”
She added: “Many have suffered a low-grade chemical-type burn.
“People have been prescribed high-powered steroids to try to calm the irritation down and others have been told they will suffer hypoallergenic sensitivity for the rest of their lives.
“Uniforms for the 8,000 staff were produced to a tight timescale. We believe that these problems arose because it was a rush job.” She said that asthma sufferers had also experienced problems with an “acrid” smell emitted from the shirts and cargo-style trousers, which are made of polyester and polycotton materials. The uniforms were ordered by the Government last year. They finally came into use this March.
Instead of pale shirts, the national gatekeepers now wear extremely dark “border blue” shirts with epaulettes, trousers, jumpers and the rest all in precisely the same shade.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The material used for our uniforms has been subject to rigorous independent testing.”
However, he added: “We are aware that a small number of staff have reported some irritation.
“We provide guidance to all staff when they collect their uniform.”
The spokesman said anyone who experienced discomfort was advised to “raise it with their line manager”.