Opinion Former Article

PCS: Changes to border controls threaten national security, union says

Changes to the shift patterns of border staff will increase costs and could put national security at risk, the Public and Commercial Services union warns as its members begin a two-day strike.

Up to 2,500 staff in the Border Force, part of the UK Border Agency, will be taking industrial action from tomorrow (13 October) in a dispute about changes to rosters and roles, and the downgrading of highly sensitive immigration control work.

The strike will lead to serious disruption for travellers at all ports and airports in the UK, and includes UKBA staff who work at border crossing points in Calais, Dunkirk and Coquelles in France.

UKBA proposes to alter the flexible method of staff deployment currently in place, which allows staff to be allocated to passport controls on a daily basis and is of great benefit in emergencies - most recently during the disruption caused by volcanic ash clouds. The current system provides coverage round the clock, 365 days a year, where necessary, while allowing staff to achieve a reasonable work/life balance.

Furthermore, the union says the proposed downgrading of the EU passport control will detrimentally affect the agency's ability to detect forgeries and could endanger national security if less skilled and experienced staff undertook this vital work.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Far from saving money, these plans will increase costs unless there are also job cuts, and we believe this is what UKBA is planning.

"Our members perform vital roles in keeping our borders secure and we can not accept cuts or changes that put this at risk."

ENDS

Notes

- For information and interview requests, contact David Tilley on 020 7801 2820

- The Public and Commercial Services union represents civil and public servants in central government. It has more than 300,000 members in over 200 departments and agencies, as well as staff in parts of government transferred to the private sector. PCS is the UK's fifth largest union and is affiliated to the TUC. The general secretary is Mark Serwotka and the president is Janice Godrich

- Follow PCS on Twitter http://twitter.com/pcs_union

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