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Updates: Passport Office strike, Priority Pass cafe access in Berlin, Qatar insurance requirements

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News in brief:

Passport Office staff to launch a five week strike

The Public & Commercial Services Union has announced that over 1,000 Passport Office workers will launch a five week strike.

The action will start on 3rd April and run to 5th May.

Around 25% of Passport Office staff will be involved, with substantial delays in passport processing times predicted.

Workers at Passport Offices in Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newport, Peterborough and Southport will join the strike. The Belfast office is still going through the process of balloting members.

It has been timed to hit the peak of applications as passengers submit in advance of Summer holiday plans.

The dispute is over an imposed 2% pay rise which the union believes is not acceptable.

PCS union passport office strike

Priority Pass lounge access in Berlin update

Yesterday we reviewed the Tempelhof lounge at Berlin Brandenburg airport. This is the lounge used by British Airways, and can also be accessed by DragonPass cardholders. It cannot be accessed with Priority Pass.

Priority Pass cardholders can use the Moevenpick Cafe in the terminal, where you can claim €23 of free food and drink.

As many HfP readers will know, Priority Pass cards issued by American Express are NOT allowed to use restaurant partners. The only exception is The Grain Store at London Gatwick.

It seems that there are actually TWO global exceptions to the ‘no restaurant credit for Amex-issued Priority Pass cards’. The Moevenpick Cafe at Brandenburg is the second exception.

You can confirm this by looking at the American Express Lounge Collection website. If you search for Berlin, the Moevenpick Cafe shows up as one you can access.

Movenpick Cafe Berlin Brandenburg Airport

An update on the compulsory insurance requirement for Qatar

As we covered yesterday, the rules for requiring compulsory health insurance to enter Qatar have been loosened. It is no longer necessary to buy insurance from a company based in Qatar which is registered with the Ministry of Public Health – the list had been extended more widely, although we couldn’t actually find the list!

It turns out the list is here. The additional ‘valid’ policies are all from Middle East insurers which doesn’t help.

However …. is now saying that compulsory insurance from a Qatari based company is only required if you are staying in the country for over 30 days. This obviously means that anyone on a stopover or short visit is exempt.

This doesn’t make a lot of sense because when you buy your insurance policy you have to pick a duration in order to calculate the price. One of the options is ’30 days’. If you don’t need coverage unless you are staying in Qatar for 31+ days, why do they sell a policy for stays of up to 30 days? The Ministry of Public Health website does not seem to mention the 30 day cut-off rule that highlights.

Comments (51)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Dominic says:

    A 2% pay rise is a pay cut. Stealth tax rises and below inflation pay rises – they are right to strike.

    Although… side related question; do passport applications from overseas go via the UK offices?

    • Bagoly says:

      Yes since 2014, per

      This year saw the end of a five-year transition in which the FCO passed all responsibility for issuing UK passports to Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO), an agency of the Home Office. Prior to 2009, almost all FCO posts overseas issued UK passports to UK nationals resident overseas. Between 2009 and 2011 this was consolidated into just seven Regional Passport Processing Centres, plus an office in Dublin. Responsibility for printing all passports then passed back to the UK, and the regional centres just processed applications, followed by a final stage from December 2012-2014 which saw a staged repatriation of all processing and decision-making to the UK. All seven of the regional centres are now closed and all overseas nationals now apply directly to HMPO for passports. The whole process was initially meant to be completed by March 2013 but was extended to March 2014.

    • TimM says:

      I have to agree. Those working in the public sector by default should have a pay-rise of inflation. Anything less is a real-terms pay cut. Do this repeatedly over years and you undermine every public sector profession. The longer-term consequences for society are severe – we are talking about health, education, and the rest of the entire gamut of what government exists for. Still, I am relieved that I am healthy, out of education and do not need to renew my passport.

      There ought to be an ISO standard of governance and default inflation-matching pay rises for the public sector would be part of it.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Only if they willingly take pay cuts when inflation is low

        The problem is they all agreed pay deals but now just don’t like them. Not many in the private sector get RPI/CPI linked pay rewards either!

        Suspect 4-5% like NHS is the most they’ll get now.

        • TimM says:

          Negative inflation rarely happens, but I agree, if it does, then pay should be adjusted accordingly.

          “The problem is they all agreed pay deals”, they didn’t. This is pure Government propaganda that you have clearly fallen for. The Government set up what they called ‘Independent’ Pay Review Bodies, comprising entirely of people chosen by the Government and then given the budget within which to work and asked how it should be allocated among the different grades – a rearrangement of deck-chairs as it were. You can only fool most of the people for so long. Or, you can only cut public sector pay, year-on-year for around 12 years before they is a reaction. Besides it is a false economy that will cost dearly in the long run.

          • Cat says:

            Thanks @TimM.

            Public sector workers and their unions have absolutely not all agreed pay deals that we’re now trying to renege in. I can’t speak for all sectors, but teachers got no pay rise at all in the academic year 21-22, and then this year we got a dramatically below inflation rise, set by the independent pay review body, without consulting us. This is unacceptable, and we had no say in it.

            @Rob is correct – private sector pay increases are driven by the need to keep workers, in an economy where employers struggle to replace workers that leave. The same is true in the public sector though. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves, and schools are really struggling to recruit, especially in shortage subjects like Maths, Physics and Chemistry. The government just don’t appear to care.

            I had one year of teaching, where my HOD for the Maths department was a music teacher who had never taught Maths before. Every school day that year I had to get into school half an hour early to ensure she understood the Maths she would be teaching that day.

            I’d rather not have to do that again.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            I had pay frozen in my private sector job as did most in the sector for 3 years due to sustained losses.

            We got half the rate of inflation last July.

            Like I said teachers have got an acceptable rise this year. Asking for inflation busting pay rises does nothing but weaken your position.

          • Cat says:

            I’ve had pay freezes repeatedly, since 2010. My real pay has dropped 13% since then. It’s not an acceptable rise when you have colleagues using food banks to feed their families. It’s not an acceptable rise when teachers are leaving teaching in their droves, and not being replaced as we can’t recruit. It’s not acceptable when we’re so short of Maths teachers (amongst others) that students are being taught Maths by someone who doesn’t even have a Maths GCSE pass (or equivalent).

        • Rob says:

          From a December 2022 article: “UK public sector wages increased by 2.7% in the year to October. Private sector workers received a 6.9% pay rise.”

          Private sector pay is strong because we are close to full employment and if your workers leave you are going to struggle to replace them.

          • masaccio says:

            But 6.9% is not inflation. Asking for an inflationary rise weakens your argument right away as it’s not credible.

          • Rob says:

            Those pay rise stats are looking backwards, remember.

            Inflation pay rises are totally credible. The HfP team got above inflation pay rises last year. If you got a below inflation pay rise from your private sector employer then its time for a chat, given that you can walk into another job within days.

            High inflation benefits many businesses. The value of their debt drops in real terms and, as long as they can pass through price rises to customers, the company is better off overall. This creates leeway for salary rises.

            (If a company has no debt and cannot pass on price rises then obviously the reverse applies, but by definition the fact that we have inflation means that price rises are passed on.)

          • Lady London says:

            Lots lesa job security and worse conditions in the private sector. The wage % figure doesn’t tell it all.

            But 2% is insulting.

          • Cat says:

            @masaccio – as an experienced teacher, my salary has dropped 13% in real terms since 2010, according to the IFS, due to repeated below inflation pay rises. Why on Earth should we accept that?

            @LadyLondon “worse conditions in the private sector” – I am admittedly curious as to whom has worse job conditions than a junior doctor working a day shift, then a night shift because they don’t have the staff, an A&E nurse working a shift that’s so busy, they’re unable to take a break, while putting their own health at risk without proper PPE during the pandemic, or a newly qualified teacher, still finding their feet in a rough state secondary, who is sworn at by students and shouted at by parents on a weekly basis.

          • Rob says:

            Yes, not sure what these ‘worse conditions’ are. If you’re in our building you’ve got free beer, table tennis, table football, an in-house (free) barista to make your coffee, film screenings, a candle making workshop last week (!), quiz nights etc.

          • Cat says:

            @Rob – next time you need to recruit someone, add that paragraph to the cold day in hell getting into work before 10am one.

          • dougzz99 says:

            Plenty of shit jobs in the private sector too. Not everyone works for bosses like you Rob. But good luck to those in the public sector, some of these pay offers are very poor.

      • Pb says:

        Why ? The self employed are not able to have auto increases, they certainly don’t have the terms and conditions or security of work or pensions or holidays .

        • TimM says:

          The self-employed raise their prices according to their own on-costs – either that or they cease to be viable. As Rob said, the inflation stats are always historical.

          It is like when people say house prices are “rising”. No, we don’t know that. All we know is that they have risen (or otherwise as the case may be). If you sold the same house every day, you would have an idea as to how the spot market was. When self-employed, you know daily what your current and near-future costs are.

          The inflation figures are already out of date whenever they are published. Even matching public sector pay increases to inflation means public sector workers are already over a year out of pocket. Not to do so is a false economy. We will all pay far more in the end.

    • masaccio says:

      Wage inflation and price inflation are decoupled. Would the people expecting an inflationary increase accept a pay cut when prices fall after fuel costs return to normal?

      Passport office workers are shockingly low-paid, but the inflation line seems only to be trotted out when it’s high, and never when it’s low.

      • Cat says:

        Sure, if they reverse my real-terms 13% pay cut and back pay me all of the money I lost due to below-inflation pay rises since 2010, I’ll accept a pay decrease if deflation happens (according to the ONS, the last time that happened was 1960 though).

        @masaccio “…but the inflation line seems to only be trotted our when it’s high and never when it’s low” – yes, sometimes inflation is low, but when have public sector workers had a pay rise that was *above* low inflation?

      • Travel Strong says:

        I think ‘conditions’ was referring to contractual conditions only! e.g. notice periods, leave, etc.
        As opposed to actual working environment.

      • His Holyness says:

        @Cat my observation about NHS staff is they don’t want to wear proper PPE. You’ll find commuters on the German train network with FFP2/3 masks who know you can’t just take it off for a drink or a bite-whereas the NHS have a pointless medical mask that was banned in many European countries as infective. Why- because FFP2/3 are too uncomfortable to wear for long periods 😂. Plus, I’ve noticed their useless medical masks are up and down like one of Boris’s mistresses underpants.
        It’s shocking how staff ignore the science.

    • DevonDiamond says:

      In my part of the public sector we cannot recruit or retain effectively due to depressed wages which have been depressed for 13 years.

      This is what happens when you don’t have the people to deliver your work.

  • TGLoyalty says:

    Why doesn’t it make sense to sell up to 30 days cover?

    Just because you don’t HAVE to buy it doesn’t mean you might not WANT to buy it.

  • Layerden says:

    The is a third one as well either in Perú Lima or Buenos Aires Argentlna.

  • Peter says:

    I have been in transit through Doha 4 times this year and have never been asked about insurance. That covers mid January through to yesterday

    • Rob says:

      Because you’re not entering Doha so it doesn’t apply to you?

      • ADS says:

        weren’t transit passengers previously required to show evidence of travel insurance ?

        • AJA says:

          That’s what the article implied but having prepared my mum to show her travel insurance at check-in for a her flight to Auckland via Doha last Sunday we weren’t asked to show any insurance..they only asked for the New Zealand E travel authorisation (their equivalent of the US Esta)

          • Rob says:

            You never needed it for transit, because you wouldn’t have been entering Doha. For a stopover, yes. I admit is wasn’t originally very clear.

      • Johan says:

        I entered Doha today. Nobody askes for insurance not thr airline not customs, border guars. There is a small office just before passport control selling insuranxmce but everybody passed it and there were no signs / reminders you need insurance to enter. I did ask the border guard about the insurance and he said there is requirement but rules change all the time and he wasnt up to date with current rules.

  • Thywillbedone says:

    Re the passport strike: what is the likelihood the government will seek to resolve this asap versus, say, those providing a non-essential service like teaching (joke)? My wife has some trips in around 10 weeks and had to submit her passport yesterday.

    • Jonathan says:

      Submitted and posted my passport renewal on 20th Feb and the new one arrived 13th March. The website says 10 weeks but that isn’t a real-time service update and just blanket cover. I would say based on my experience and that of the forum renewals are far less than 10 weeks.

      • No longer Entitled says:

        I had two child passports returned this week after 12 days. I imagine however that they will see and influx now though with this news so don’t delay if you need one.

      • Erico1875 says:

        My wife’s was under 2 weeks. Glad we did it last month

  • Save East Coast Rewards says:

    What happens if you try and use an Amex Priority Pass in a bar that’s not accepted by Amex but is for other PP holders? Does it reject or do you get charged?

    • ready to fly says:

      I had that experience at Fort Lauderdale Airport a few years ago. The retailer will know your card is ineligible and your Amex card will be charged for the expense.

  • lpgm says:

    Maybe you still need insurance for short trips, but you don’t have to buy it from a Qatari provider. For longer trips, you do. Perhaps.

  • Heathrow Flyer says:

    I was surprised walking past the Victoria Passport Office yesterday to see that it has closed, the London Passport Office is now located at Warehouse K, 2 Western Gateway E16 1DR.

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