Britons who need to renew their passports before going on holiday this summer are being urged to get their applications in as soon as possible after Passport Office workers announced a five-week long strike.
More than 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union will participate in the action from April 3 to May 5, with the union warning that the strike will have a “significant impact” on the delivery of passports ahead of the summer holiday.
Jo Rhodes, Deputy Editor of Which? Travel, said the strikes will be of concern to “hundreds of thousands of travellers who need to renew in the coming months”.
Currently the Passport Office warns it can take up to ten weeks for new passports to be processed, however Ms Rhodes warned this could now rise.
She said: “Anyone due to travel this summer should check their passport’s expiry date carefully, as well as the number of months validity required by their destination. If you do need to renew your passport, apply as early as possible.”
Downing Street said ministers would work to “mitigate” the impact of strikes by Passport Office staff, but that there are no plans to change guidance on the 10-week waiting times for passports ahead of summer.
Alex Scripps, 31, from London, told i he rushed to submit his passport application form on Friday morning after hearing the news of the strike.
He is booked to fly to Portugal in July for a Harry Styles concert, and is hopeful that he has still given himself enough time to get his passport back.
“I was a bit stressed this morning because it has been on my list of things to do for a while,” he said, adding that he has applied for a passport with extra pages as his friend recently did this and got their renewal back within a few days.
Last year, hundreds of thousands of people were hit by delays in passport processing in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, with the Passport Office unable to keep up with unprecedented demand as travel restrictions eased.
A report published in December by the National Audit Office found 360,000 people waited more than 10 weeks to receive their passport in the first nine months of 2022, with similar demand expected this year.
However, Natalie Taylor, a travel agent with Hays Travel, said the delays were brought under control and she recently received a passport for her son within 12 days of sending it off.
However, Ms Taylor fears the strike will lead to a fresh backlog.
“For anybody that’s wanting to go away in the summer this is probably going to put a massive strain on them because we don’t know what the backlog is going to be from these strikes. So we’re just trying to say to everyone if you know it’s coming up just get it done now,” she said.
As part of the upcoming strike, those working in Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport, Peterborough and Southport will walk out from April 3 to May 5, while those in Belfast will strike from April 7 to May 5.
Passport Office workers have previously joined around 100,000 civil servants in industrial action that took place on 1 February and 15 March.
The workers are asking for a 10 per cent pay rise as well as changes to their pension and protected redundancy terms.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This escalation of our action has come about because, in sharp contrast with other parts of the public sector, ministers have failed to hold any meaningful talks with us, despite two massive strikes and sustained, targeted action lasting six months.
“Their approach is further evidence they’re treating their own workforce worse than anyone else. They’ve had six months to resolve this dispute but for six months have refused to improve their 2% imposed pay rise, and failed to address our members’ other issues of concern.”
It comes as the Government struck a pay deal with unions representing nurses, ambulance workers and other health workers in a bid to bring an end to ongoing strike action in the NHS.
However, ministers are yet to agree new pay deals with junior doctors, who staged a major walkout this week.
The bitter dispute will rail unions also remains ongoing nine months after the first train strikes, with further strikes planned for next month.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “There are no current plans to change the guidance that people should allow 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 vital service to the British public as you would expect ahead of ahead of the summer where we fully acknowledge that many people will want to get away and enjoy the summer with their family.
“So we will do everything we can to mitigate the impact of the strikes.”