Passport Office workers have today (Monday April 3) begun their five-week strike in disputes over jobs, pay, pensions and conditions.

Over 1,000 workers from across the country at eight sites who are members of the Public and Commercial Services Union have walked out as the dispute escalates.

Joining the dispute were workers from Durham Passport Office, as the union warns of disruption for those hoping to renew their passport in time for the summer holidays.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said he expects to see “huge delays” for passport renewals.

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He added: “In my opinion there will be huge delays in the already 10 weeks that people are supposed to apply for passports, and there will be huge disruption on the fast-track service that people can use when they want to get a passport quicker.

“The Government says it has got contingency measures in place so we’ll see how that works out over the next few days and weeks, but I would expect there to be delays.”

However, the Home Office has said there are currently no plans to change official guidance amidst the strikes that states that it takes up to 10 weeks to get a passport.

Speaking from the London picket line, 27-year-old Passport Office worker Zachary Vallary told PA News agency that civil servants are “struggling with in-work poverty.”

He added: “The strike here is likely to cause disruption, which we regret, but what we’d like is for the Government to get around the negotiating table with our leadership and put a fair pay rise on the table.

“There have also been cuts to the Civil Service pension and changes to the conditions. We’ve noticed that our members are being made to overpay on their pension, and we’re campaigning for that money to be returned to our members.”

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Home Office worker James Cox, speaking from the London Passport Office picket line as a union representative, said: “I’ve come down to support PCS members in the Passport Office today in their fight for fairer pay.

“Members are having to make decisions about whether they can heat their homes or eat, or take their kids out instead of having to stay at home.

“In the Passport Office there are hundreds of members who have just received a pay rise because their wages had actually fallen below national minimum wage, and they work for a Government department, which is disgraceful really – they should be paid considerably more than that.”

The PCS union confirmed that workers taking action will be supported by a strike fund, as the Government has not yet approached the union for negotiations.

The Home Office said the Passport Office has already processed more than 2.7 million applications this year, adding that more than 99.7% of standard applications are being processed within 10 weeks, with the majority of those delivered to customers well under this timescale.

A spokesperson said: “We are working to manage the impact of this strike action, whilst ensuring we continue to deliver vital services to the public through our comprehensive contingency plans.

“There are currently no plans to change our guidance which states that customers should allow up to 10 weeks to get a passport.”