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Border force strikes – what do small businesses need to know?

2-minute read

Dover port
Zach Hayward-Jones

Zach Hayward-Jones

12 January 2023

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Since the summer of 2022, there’s been regular strike action across the public sectors in disputes over pay and working conditions. They show no signs of slowing down in 2023, with further strikes planned from unions in transport, education, and healthcare.

A ‘huge escalation’ in strike action by Border Force planned this month could have a negative impact on small business supply chains. Read on to find out more about Border Force's strike plans and how you could be affected.

Why are Border Force striking?

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) represents Border Force staff and they’ve organised strikes over pay and working conditions.

They join nurses, railway, and Royal Mail workers in industrial action that’s been brought on by the rising cost of living and inflation straining public sectors.

Members of PCS took strike action at various UK airports in December 2022, which led to the army being brought in to replace the striking workers.

But with no agreement being made between the union and ministers, there’s a chance ports in South East England will be affected by fresh strikes.

Mark Serwotka, the head of PCS, said: “I think in January what you’ll see is a huge escalation of this action, in the civil service and across the rest of our economy, unless the government get around the negotiating table.”

A spokesperson from the union added: “We have a six-month mandate for action, so all that needs to happen at Dover and elsewhere is we must give the employer two weeks’ notice.”

With 2,000 PCS members working in the South East at ports like Dover, strike action could severely affect the importing of goods into the UK. It’ll likely cause delays in the processing of vehicles through the border.

This comes after a year of supply chain issues that have caused disruption for many small businesses.

What do the strikes mean for small businesses?

If the strike action expands to ports in the South East, it could cause supply chain disruption for the whole of the UK. PCS members in the South East work in immigration, customs, and check the paperwork of lorries and freights.

Supply chain issues have become a persistent issue for small business owners over the last few years. Brexit, Covid-19, and the availability of workers have all contributed to an issue that isn’t showing signs of improving.

If your business has been affected by supply chain disruptions in recent years, there’s a chance it could happen again in the future.

How can SMEs cope with further disruption?

  • shorten your supply chain – using more small businesses or local suppliers could reduce the impact of disruptions
  • build back-up inventory – have extra stock where possible to minimise the effect of disrupted delivery times
  • diversify your suppliers – using a variety of suppliers means you’ll have a better chance of getting what you need
  • communicate with your customersmanaging the expectations of your customers can help ease the pressure of meeting demands

It’s also worth reading about supply chain management to make sure your business works as efficiently as possible.

When will Border Force strikes end?

It’s hard to say with certainty when the dispute will end but PCS claim they have a fund that can last until May.

Responding to the plans to expand the strike, a Home Office spokesperson said: “We have comprehensive contingency plans in place and continue to work closely with partners and industry to manage its impact, whilst ensuring we can continue to deliver vital services to the public.”

This means we could see the army filling in for the striking workers as they did last year.

The government has also brought in the former Australian foreign affairs minister, Alexander Downer to review Border Force. He plans to make Border Force “a fully fledged uniformed service, where you would provide it with the characteristics that a uniformed force possesses and hold them to that elevated standard.”

As a result, Border Force’s right to strike would be similar to the police and armed forces.

Keep an eye on the Knowledge centre for updates on any further developments on these strikes.

More useful articles for small business owners

Has your business struggled with supply chain issues? Let us know in the comments below.

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Zach Hayward-Jones

Written by

Zach Hayward-Jones

Zach Hayward-Jones is a Copywriter at Simply Business, with six years of writing experience across entertainment, insurance, and financial services. Zach specialises in covering small business and landlord insurance. He has a particular interest in issues impacting the hospitality industry after spending a number of years working as a pastry chef.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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