The crisis in the Passport Office and massive backlogs are the result of government austerity measures that seek to run down public services. Thousands of Public and Commercial Services union members in the Passport Office are striking today to demand the government puts proper resources in place to ensure the massive backlogs, which are all too common, do not recur year after year.
Strike action is a last resort but this government gives our members little choice. The problem firmly lies with the home secretary and the government, who have cut hundreds of jobs over the past few years.
There has been a huge amount of overtime in the Passport Office for months, a sure sign that the service does not have enough staff to deal with workloads, with offices opening from 7am to midnight just to cope. This is costing the taxpayer far more as people are now being paid double time for working overtime.
We need more jobs – around 600 – and we need the Passport Office to seriously look at the option of reopening the application processing centre in Newport.
According to Home Office figures, staffing levels stood at around 14% lower in 2013-14 than in the first year of the coalition government.
What we want is a permanent solution where permanent jobs go back to the Passport Office. This will ensure that thousands of people who have been struggling to get passports this year will not suffer in the future and we won’t see this problem continuing in years to come.
The last time the Passport Office increased staffing was after the union’s 2012 dispute over jobs in the Home Office. At that time, the shortage was most obvious at the borders, with queues building up at airports and under-trained staff being drafted in from across the department and other government departments.