The summer holidays are at risk due to a five-week strike by passport workers.
The strikes will start early next month, just as the busiest period for job applications arrives.
Families were warned last night of ‘significant disruption’ and a race to have passports renewed for the school holidays.
Applicants are told to wait up to ten weeks to get their replacements. At least one million passports would typically be processed during the strike period.
The Public and Commercial Services union, which is behind the planned strikes, is seeking a wage increase of 10 percent instead of the 2 percent offered.
People wait outside the new Passport Office building near the ExCel Center in London on Friday
It also fights pension and layoff changes. Members of parliament warned yesterday that the unions would ‘lose their sympathy very, very quickly’ if holidaymakers lose their outings.
“We are already seeing delays creeping into the passport application system again,” said Greg Smith, a Tory member of the House of Commons transport committee.
“It is highly unacceptable that a service that barely shrouded itself in glory last year should once again cause misery to the general British public in 2023 with strikes threatening their holidays.
“People deserve vacations and the ability to get passports and travel for themselves and their families and it is highly unacceptable that an arm of the state is denying them that this year.
“They need to see their senses and get back to work. People got screwed last year and they’re screwed again.”
More misery loomed for travelers after security staff at Heathrow voted last night to strike for 10 days.
The strike, involving more than 1,400 workers, will begin on March 31 and end on Easter Sunday, union Unite said.
A general view of the exterior of the former Passport Office building near Victoria Station on Friday
The announcement of the strike came as the government ended a series of pay disputes involving transport and NHS workers.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said passport offices expect 1.25 million applications during the five-week strike. He told Times Radio: ‘This is going to have a significant impact, which is why the government has 14 days before a single passport worker starts a strike.
“What we’re asking for is the same treatment as everyone else: talks, wage offers that improve the 2 percent — and then maybe these strikes won’t happen.”
Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson said: ‘My message to the unions on this one would be to be careful what you wish for.
“While the public generally has some sympathy for people who take these strikes, if you start messing with hard-working people’s well-deserved summer vacation, you lose sympathy very, very quickly.
‘If people no longer get their passports and can no longer travel, people will get really annoyed.
‘One of the biggest complaints I had last year was the backlog of passports and there was little sympathy for that at the time.
Public and Commercial Services Union general secretary Mark Serwotka speaks at a strike rally in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday
“It is very cynical of the unions to target people’s summer holidays, again abusing their position to ransom the country.
“They may have seen other public services have had some success in getting pay raises, but this is not the way to do business. The best way is to sit around a table and talk.’
Officials are working on contingency plans to mitigate the impact of the strikes.
Clive Wartten of the Business Travel Association said last night: ‘The strikes at the Passport Office will have a devastating impact on business travel and the UK economy.
“These strikes will affect businesses in the UK, leading to the loss of sales and deals, further damaging the industry and economy, which have seen a recovery so far.
“With over a million applications to be processed during the strike period, we strongly urge the government to reach an agreement with the PCS as soon as possible to avoid another summer of discontent.”
It is feared that news of the impending strike could also create a bottleneck, with travelers biding their time before renewing and suddenly bombing the HM Passport Office.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union on the picket line outside Birmingham Airport in December
It is clear that 55 percent of the examiners, who check and process applications, are members of the PSC union.
Paul Charles of travel consultancy PC Agency said: ‘It’s a complete mess. The government should review and increase its wage offer from 2 percent.
“Because this is where nearly a million people will get caught up. It will cause serious difficulties in a month when many people are desperately trying to renew their passports in time for the summer.
“In the worst case, there is a threat of a huge wave of cancellations.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said of The Advantage Travel Partnership said: ‘These strikes will only add to the delays people are already experiencing and will affect passport deliveries as summer approaches.
‘Last year, 360,000 people had to wait longer than ten weeks for their passport.
“Long waits for passports will inevitably deter people from traveling as the outbound travel industry recovers from the pandemic.”
Downing Street said ministers would work to mitigate the impact of the strike. A spokesman added: “There are currently no plans to change the guideline that people have to wait up to 10 weeks to get a passport.
“The Home Office will work hard to manage the impact of this strike action to ensure they can still provide the essential service to the British public as you would expect for the summer where we fully recognize that many people want to leave and enjoy the summer.’
A spokesman for travel agent association ABTA also suggested that there was no reason to panic.
Passport staff in Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport, Peterborough and Southport will leave from April 3 to May 5, while those in Belfast will strike from April 7 to May 5.
In most countries, including Australia, Canada and the US, your passport is only valid for the duration of your stay, but in other countries an additional period of validity of at least six months is required.
In the EU, the expiry date must be at least three months after your intended departure.