LONDON (HPD) — Air passengers faced possible delays at British airports Friday as a strike by passport stampers began, the latest in a series of walkouts over wage increases to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.
France was preparing for similar upheaval with a rail strike over the Christmas weekend.
The strike by British Border Force personnel was scheduled to continue until the end of the year with the exception of Tuesday.
This could affect hundreds of thousands of passengers, although the British government said it was preparing military and other public service personnel to help at airports.
The strikes are putting pressure on the conservative government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, which is rejecting public sector workers’ demands for pay increases.
Inflation was 10.7% in November, driven by food and fuel prices following the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sunak said he deplored the stoppage and advised people to check their travel plans before setting off.
“I am really saddened and disappointed by the disruption caused to so many people’s lives, especially at Christmas,” he said during a visit to a London homeless shelter.
“He insisted that his government has acted in a “fair and reasonable” manner in public sector wage negotiations.
British NHS nursing staff on Tuesday went on their second 24-hour walkout this month. Ambulance drivers, paramedics and dispatchers also stopped this week and plan to do so again on December 28.
The strikes also disrupt postal services, highway maintenance and driving tests.
France faced similar upheavals.
Almost half of the train drivers will go on strike on Christmas weekend. A third of the train services on Friday and 40% of those on Saturday and Sunday were cancelled, the national railway company SNCF reported.
The strikers are demanding wage increases and more staff.
High-speed trains from France to Spain and Italy, as well as regional services, also foresee disruption.
The employees who collect tickets and carry out the operations on board demand more than 12% over two years that the SNCF offers.
The strike affects family gatherings that could not take place during the pandemic. There were expressions of anger from travelers and strong criticism from the government.
“Going on strike at this time is incomprehensible and unjustifiable,” Transport Minister Clement Beaune told France Info radio.