Soldiers drafted in to cover up Border Force strike

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Soldiers drafted in to cover up Border Force strike

Hundreds of soldiers have been told their Christmas leave is being cancelled for the second year in a row after they were drafted in to replace striking Border Force guards.

Troops who served on Covid wards during the Omicron wave last year are being asked to fill in at airports. The Public and Commercial Services Union PCS has announced that Border Force staff will be sacked from December 23 to Boxing Day and December 28 to New Year s Eve.

A total of 100 troops have arrived in Gatwick and Heathrow, where they will remain until the end of the strikes in the new year. Some are housed in hotels.

The soldiers are trained on how to check passports and spot instances of modern slavery. 600 personnel have been drafted in to replace the striking Border Force staff.

Hundreds of soldiers will be sent to drive ambulances and provide logistical support in an effort to limit the impact of co-ordinated strikes on the NHS. The Ministry of Defence is about to agree to a request from the Department of Health for military support under the military aid to civil authorities protocol, known as Maca.

During the Pandemic, soldiers delivered PPE and set up mobile testing units under the same arrangement.

Some of the troops drafted in to help at airports Christmas was one of the last opportunities for them to see their families before they go on six month foreign deployments next year. Members of the armed forces are not allowed to strike by law.

They have a pay rise of 3.75 per cent this year, while the Border Force workers are demanding a 10 per cent increase. A private in the army earns 21,424 a year, compared to a starting salary of 21,431 for a Border Force officer.

The education secretary, Gillian Keegan, said soldiers standing in for striking workers deserved thanks. We all owe a huge thank you to the military. She told BBC Radio 4 that they not only keep us safe and do the most incredible hard job and often away from their families, but they are also the backups. They don't have a right to strike, because they have a sense of duty. Our military is responsible for our country's duty. The former head of the army, Lord Dannatt, said it was unreasonable for the government to ask soldiers about to deploy overseas to cancel their Christmases for striking workers. Why should a soldier cover an ambulance driver? He said the government has to be careful because it risks seriously hacking off soldiers.

If there is a natural disaster, everyone understands why the military needs to be helping the blue-lights services. When the government is in the midst of industrial disputes that many people think the government can resolve but for political purposes chooses not to, the military becomes a substitute for striking labour. The armed forces have less spare capacity as they get smaller and remain very busy. It is unreasonable to think soldiers deploying in the new year are free to work before they go away. Robert Clark, a former soldier and defence director of Civitas, said that the army is being used as a convenient political plug, while other public sector bodies, who are able to strike, try to gain four times the pay increase that the army has had.

Christmas is a special time of year for soldiers and their families, and they never complain about the low pay inherent in their job. Compounding issues are the ever-reducing numbers that the army has, and it can ill afford to lose more good men and women, which covering these strikes will cause a lot of problems.