LONDON ( Associated Press) – Air travelers faced possible delays Friday at British airports as a passport stampers strike began, the latest in a series of wage increases to combat the cost-of-living crisis.
France was preparing for similar turmoil with a rail strike over the Christmas weekend.
The strike by British Border Force personnel was set to continue until the end of the year, except on Tuesday.
It could affect hundreds of thousands of passengers, although the British government said it was preparing military and other public service personnel to help at airports.
The strikes are piling pressure on the conservative government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, which has been rejecting public sector workers’ demands for a pay rise.
Inflation was 10.7% in November, driven by food and fuel prices following the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Sunak said he condemned the stoppage and advised people to check their travel plans before leaving.
“I’m really saddened and disappointed by the disruption of so many people’s lives over Christmas,” he said during a visit to a London homeless shelter.
He insisted that his government had acted in a “fair and reasonable” manner in public sector wage negotiations.
British NHS nursing staff went on their second 24-hour walkout this month on Tuesday. Ambulance drivers, paramedics and dispatchers also stopped by this week and plan to do so again on December 28.
Strikes also disrupt postal services, highway maintenance and driving tests.
France faced a similar upheaval.
About half of train drivers will go on strike over the Christmas weekend. National railway company SNCF reported that a third of train services were canceled on Friday and 40% on Saturday and Sunday.
The protesters are demanding a pay rise and more employees.
Disruption is also expected to high-speed trains from France to Spain and Italy as well as regional services.
The workers who collect tickets and conduct operations on board demand 12% more over two years than what is provided by the SNCF.
The strike affects family gatherings that could not take place during the pandemic. There were expressions of anger from the passengers and strong criticism of the government.
“It is incomprehensible and inappropriate to go on strike at this time,” Transport Minister Clément Beaune told France Info radio.