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UK immigration staff expected to strike on 10 May

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UK immigration staff are planning to stage a one-day strike in a dispute over public sector pensions. The strike, set for 10 May is expected to cause even further disruption and result in delays at several airports, including Heathrow.

Heathrow has already been experiencing significant delays at immigration checks; Security has been heightened following last year's border row when immigration border officials reduced passport and visa checks without ministerial approval. Some passengers have said that they have had to wait up to three hours at border checks during peak travel times.

The Immigration Services Union (ISU), which represents 4,500 UK Border Agency staff, has announced that its members will walk out at ports and airports across the UK and abroad. The union explained that it is currently in dispute with the UK government over plans to increase the retirement age for public servants.

The strike is also being held on the same day when tens of thousands of civil servants, lecturers, health staff, Ministry of Defence employees and members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary also take industrial action.

UK Home Secretary Theresa May and UK Border Force managers are meeting with airline officials to layout plans to deal with the disruption. Procedures have already been set up to bring in military police and civil service employees to handle border checks. This is at a time when the UK government is already dealing with criticism and complaints about the long queues at Heathrow Airport passport and visa control.

UK Immigration Minister Damian Green has admitted the UK Border Force needs to change the way it operates and said they plan to hire extra staff to start work this month.

However, Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, warned: "Drafting in staff from other areas of an already overstretched agency is like putting a sticking plaster on a serious injury, it will do nothing to stop the inevitable from happening."

"The current problems at Heathrow are bad enough without strikes adding to the chaos. British business needs our borders to be running smoothly so that potential investors and tourists from around the world can come here," said Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors. "Our border controls are an international embarrassment, putting British jobs and economic growth at risk, and this strike will make that worse."

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