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Thousands of passport workers - members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union - walked out on 28 July in a bid to end staffing shortages that have caused the ongoing backlog crisis. Dave Reid reports from the Newport Passport Office picket line.
Newport Passport Office strikes for jobs and decent pay
Hundreds of jobs lost = Thousands of passports backlogged
There was a good mood on the picket line at Newport passport office as workers struck on 28 July to demand additional staff to enable them to provide a decent service and for pay parity with other Home Office workers. Members of the public arriving to arrange their passports were overwhelmingly supportive and sympathetic to the strikers.
700 jobs have been cut from the passport service since 2010 which has caused a massive backlog in passport applications. 300 jobs have been lost from the Newport office alone. But apart from the callous indifference of government ministers in cutting jobs from one of the most deprived cities in Europe, the sheer incompetence of Identity Service bosses in cutting so many jobs has resulted in a backlog of 500,000 passports.
And Passport Office workers are underpaid by up to £3,000 a year compared to equivalent workers in the Home Office. Even Passport Office bosses admit the workers have a case, but have to get approval from chancellor George Osborne to increase funding to give the workers fair pay.
Considering passport workers make the government £56 million profit that should not be difficult, but the Tories will have to be forced to pay up by strike action.
Currently passport workers are having to work six days a week to clear the backlog and to get a half decent pay packet.
Ben Rapier, PCS Newport branch chairman, said: "All the overtime our members are having to work is equivalent to 250 jobs. We are having to work to sort out a problem created by the employer's cuts to the workforce and the service. Members of the public supported us on the picket line. They were all aware of the backlog that the Passport Office has and we explained that it was caused by job cuts and they were very understanding."
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 29 July 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.