LONDON — Air travelers faced possible delays at UK airports on Friday as government workers who check passports went on strike in the latest in a series of pay walkouts amid a cost of living crisis.
France has braced for a similar disruption to Christmas travel, with a weekend rail strike starting to bite on Friday.
The strike by border force personnel was to continue until the end of the year, with the exception of next Tuesday.
Hundreds of thousands of passengers could be affected, although the UK government has said it is preparing military personnel and other public service workers to help out at airports.
The strikes are putting pressure on the conservative government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, which is refusing demands from public sector workers for substantial wage increases.
Inflation stood at 10.7% in November, driven by food and energy prices following the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Sunak said he regretted the walkout and advised people to check their travel plans before leaving.
“I’m really sad and disappointed at the disruption that is being caused to so many people’s lives, especially over Christmas,” he said during a visit to a homeless shelter in London.
He insisted that his government had acted “in a fair and reasonable manner” in public sector wage negotiations.
Thousands of National Health Service nurses walked off the job on Tuesday in their second 24-hour strike this month. Ambulance drivers, paramedics and dispatchers also went on strike earlier this week and are planning another walkout on December 28.
Mail deliveries, highway maintenance and driving tests are also disrupted by strikes.
Further travel difficulties loomed on Saturday, Christmas Eve, when most train services were set to be cancelled.
Labor unrest is expected to continue into the new year, when more strikes are scheduled.
Nurses announced on Friday that they were planning walkouts on January 18 and 19.
France has faced similar travel and walkout issues.
About half of French train conductors go on strike for the Christmas weekend. A third of regular rail services were canceled on Friday and 40% of trains were canceled for Saturday and Sunday, according to SNCF.
They demand higher salaries and more personnel. It is among several strikes in France resulting from rising costs of living, including energy bills, in recent months.