Advertisement

A view from the picket lines

Customs and border staff took part in Thursday's strikes. Photo: Press Association

I got up early to go to Heathrow. This is the big pressure point - where strikers could embarrass the government. As I went through the passport hall people were going through within minutes. I spoke to a couple returning from the Virgin Islands, "it took three minutes," they said smiling. I discovered there had been a 90 minute delay for some - but nobody could quite be certain whether that was due to the strike or to the general level of inefficiency at Heathrow immigration.

Unite and PCS union members outside University Hospital Birmingham, Edgbaston. Credit: Press Association

Then I went to see the picket line. It was only about half a dozen people - all customs and border staff. They were tired and wet, having stood outside Heathrow since 5am. "Aren't you wasting your time", I enquired tactlessly. In various ways the reply was always along the same lines: "We are sick of being pushed around, we are being hit three times over - pay more, work more, earn less".

Back in central London, I was listening to the main union leader Mark Serwotka from the Public and Commercial Services Union. He spoke of the "fight" and threatened "more action with more unions," if the Government did not talk to them about the pension plan.

Earlier unions threatened this strike would have "real industrial impact", but as I came to the ITV studio I could see recordings coming in from around the UK showing protests but little impact. If this day was meant to show the unions have formed an alliance powerful enough to change the Government's direction - it seems to have fallen short. Strikers were accused of being pointless - certainly they seemed harmless... regrettably that is not the usual hallmark of successful industrial action.

More on this story