Friday, June 21, 2024

The travel strikes that could affect holidays over half term and summer

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May half term is less than a week away for many families and it will coincide with industrial action by Border Force officers at Heathrow. Meanwhile, transport strikes in the UK and Europe could impact travel over the school summer holidays.

More than 500 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union will take part in industrial action at Heathrow on 31 May, 1 June and 2 June over the introduction of a new roster system. PCS union members will also refuse to work overtime for three weeks starting 4 June.

According to the PCS union, the new roster will lead 250 members to be pushed out of their jobs on passport control.

The last bout of strike action over the bank holiday weekend (29 April to 2 May) did not result in significant disruption at Heathrow.

E-gates were working as usual during the strike and many eligible passengers will have passed through them to enter the UK.

During the last Border Force strikes, Heathrow assured passengers that contingency plans were in place to minimise disruption.

However, on 7 May, a few days after the walkout, a nationwide failure of the e-gates system led to long queues and delays at UK airports, including Heathrow.

The other strikes that could affect holidays

Britain: rail strikes

In February, members of the Aslef train drivers’ union voted to continue striking until at least August 2024. More industrial action is likely until a deal on pay, job security and working conditions is reached. No further dates have been scheduled since the last walkouts earlier this month.

France: air traffic control and transport unions

From French air traffic controllers to rail workers in Italy, other planned or potential walkouts could impact international travel in the coming weeks and months.

Strikes by French air traffic controllers led to the cancellation of thousands of flights in 2023. The last planned strike on 25 April this year, which was called off the day before, was expected to ground more than 2,000 flights.

When there is an air traffic control strike in France, flights that pass through French airspace on a route to and from other destinations can also be cancelled, delayed or disrupted.

Following a rule change last year, French air traffic controllers must give at least 48 hours’ notice before going on strike. This did not stop strikes going ahead, however. There were more than 60 days of industrial action by French air traffic controllers in 2023.

The SNCTA union, which represents 60 per cent of air traffic controllers in France, has agreed that no strike action will take place between July and September to avoid disruption to travel to the Olympic and Paralympic games. Until July, however, more walkouts could be announced.

Unions in other industries in France have also threatened to strike in the run-up to the Paris Olympics and Paralympics 2024, which is expected to be a busy travel period.

On 21 May, strikes by four transport unions will affect air and rail travel around the French capital.

View of Charles De Gaulle , International airport in Paris - Airplane at sunrise, with airplanes, one parked and the other taking off, and air traffic control tower.
Charles De Gaulle airport could be affected by strikes (Photo: Stella Levi/Getty)

Many airport workers from Aéroports de Paris (ADP), which includes Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, are expected to take part in the one-day strike. However, it is not expected to cause major disruption for passengers.

More significant disruption is expected on the Paris RER suburban transport network with as little as one in five of the typical number of peak hours trains running on some lines.

The four unions that are taking action are demanding a fixed bonus between July 8 and September 15, when workers from other regions will be moved to the Paris region to cope with the extra workload due to the games.

Italy: rail strikes

A nationwide rail strike was postponed in Italy on 19 May following an injunction by the country’s transport minister Matteo Salvini.

The strike was due to take place during the Made in Italy and Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. The walkout may be allowed to go ahead at a later date.

Meanwhile, industrial action is due to affect some regional services from 27–28 May.

The UK Home Office was contacted for comment on the Border Force strikes.

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