Immigration officers at airports and ports are due to strike for 24 hours next Wednesday, August 5, failing an agreement with the government’s UK Border Agency.

The walkout threatens lengthy queues at airports for inbound passengers. The 1,200 officers, members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) are angry at the way a merger of immigration and customs services is being handled, and voted 78% in favour of a strike.

Talks with management were scheduled to resume on Friday, but the dispute seems set to escalate with the previously no-strike Immigration Service Union (ISU) poised to ballot its 4,000 immigration officer members on industrial action next week. The ISU reports support for a strike among its members running at 77%.

The government is bringing customs and immigration together under the Border Agency, part of the Home Office. But unions say immigration officers will be forced to adopt the practices of customs officers – targeting flights rather than vetting every passenger – and have to perform duties such as strip searches and making arrests that they did not sign up for.

The PCS warned: “There is a potential for long delays at ports of entry.”

The union will decide next Tuesday whether to go ahead with the strike.

Image :Jonathan Player / Rex Features