Passport Office strike: The last date to get your passport application in

A file image of people queuing outside the Passport Office in Peterborough, as workers are to strike for five weeks in an escalation of a dispute over jobs, pay and conditions. (PA)
A file image of people queuing outside the Passport Office in Peterborough, as some workers are to strike for five weeks in an escalation of a dispute over jobs, pay and conditions. (PA)

Passport Office workers are to strike… for five weeks.

More than 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union working in Passport Offices in England, Scotland and Wales will take part in the action which will start next month and run into May.

The Passport Office is the sole issuer of UK passports and the union warned it was likely to have a “significant impact” on delivery of the documents.

With the summer holidays only a few months away, Yahoo News UK explains why some Passport Office staff are striking and when people should renew their passports if they are going abroad.

When and why are Passport Office workers striking?

More than 1,000 PCS members working in Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport, Peterborough and Southport will walk out from 3 April to 5 May. Members in Northern Ireland's Passport Office are currently being balloted.

It’s an escalation of a dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This escalation of our action has come about because, in sharp contrast with other parts of the public sector, ministers have failed to hold any meaningful talks with us.”

Read more: Who is on strike today in the UK?

When do I need to renew my passport by?

Ultimately, the Passport Office says it can take “up to 10 weeks” for the renewal process to be completed, though a recent National Audit Office report said the processing time for “straightforward applications” was just 12 days in September last year.

Even so, if we go by the Passport Office’s guidance, 10 weeks from today (Friday) is 26 May: well into summer holiday territory.

Watch: Government and education unions to hold ‘intensive talks’ after strikes

Also consider a quarter of the Passport Office’s 4,000-strong workforce will be striking for half of this time. And the fact the office processes six million passport applications a year. This averages at 115,000 a week, meaning about 600,000 applications could be received during the five-week strike period where there will be a depleted workforce.

Given you have no chance of going abroad with an out-of-date passport, it’s best not to leave anything to chance. Strike or no strike, it’s safest to apply as soon as possible if your current passport is expiring (also note that if you're visiting an EU country from the UK, your passport will need to be valid for at least three months after the date you intend to leave, and be less than 10 years old).

Read more: Bid to end teacher strikes as government and education unions agree to hold 'intensive talks' on pay and workload

Could it affect my summer holidays?

The PCS, as mentioned above, warned the strike will have a “significant impact” on the delivery of passports. But the government, responding to the union's announcement, has said there are no plans to change the 10-week guidance.

A Downing Street spokesman said on Friday: “There are no current plans to change the guidance that people should allow up to 10 weeks to get a passport. The Home Office will work hard to manage the impact of this strike action to ensure they can still provide the vital service to the British public as you would expect ahead of ahead of the summer where we fully acknowledge that many people will want to get away and enjoy the summer with their family.

“So we will do everything we can to mitigate the impact of the strikes.”

Read more: 'People used to clap': Why striking junior doctors are so fed-up

How much do passport workers earn?

The average figure is not available on the government's website, but current vacancies at the Passport Office show salaries of £22,400 for a document controller, up to £27,650 for a counter fraud officer and up to £27,650 for a customer service team leader.

Serwotka said the government is treating its "own workforce [including Passport Office staff] worse than anyone else".

"They’ve had six months to resolve this dispute but for six months have refused to improve their 2% imposed pay rise, and failed to address our members’ other issues of concern."

Read more: When will the cost of living crisis end?