Children and teachers returning to the UK from half-term school trips have endured delays of more than six hours at Calais, amid strike action by Border Force staff.
P&O Ferries told customers that long wait times were “due to the queues at border control who are also on strike”, though the government rejected suggestions that industrial action was having an impact on wait times.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union working in Calais, Dunkirk, Dover and the Coquelles Channel tunnel terminal began strikes over pay on Friday, with the industrial action due to continue until Monday morning.
A number of schools reported delays returning from trips on Saturday as parents complained on social media that their children had been waiting at Calais for hours.
Some said their children had been waiting to board a ferry at 8.30am but were still on the French side by the afternoon.
Teachers and students from Surrey returning from a ski trip in Austria waited for six-and-a-half hours to board a ferry back to the UK.
Wellsway school in Bristol tweeted that students returning from a ski trip had missed their scheduled ferry from Calais due to the long queues for passport control.
Langley Park School for Girls in Bromley, south-east London, said they were making “very slow progress” at the port.
One mother tweeted it had been a “gruelling trip” for her daughter, saying: “Thirty hour journey last week travelling to Austria due to delays and 23 hrs since leaving Austria they are still stuck at Calais! Arrived at about 10.30 this morning.
“Fingers crossed they can get on the 10.45pm! It’s a good job she had a fab time!”
DFDS Ferries said coach passengers should expect six-hour delays at Calais due to “high volumes of traffic”.
P&O Ferries tweeted: “There are still large queues of up to 6hr 30mins at border control in the Port of Calais for coaches. There are limited toilet facilities, we recommend stopping en route.
“Please come prepared with refreshments to make your wait more comfortable.”
Car traffic was delayed by up to an hour at Calais earlier on Saturday, but had cleared by the evening.
A PCS spokesperson said: “While we sympathise with travellers experiencing delays, the blame lies squarely with the government. Rishi Sunak has had months to resolve this dispute but refuses to meet us. He can end the strikes tomorrow if he puts some money on the table.
“Until he does, our strikes will continue because it is unacceptable that hard-working civil servants are being told to accept just a 2% pay rise during a cost-of-living crisis when inflation is at 10%.”
But the Home Office denied the strikes were causing delays.
A spokesperson told the BBC: “The queues at the Port of Calais today are not due to industrial action.
“Border Force operations there remain fluid with all booths open and no significant wait times.
“Border Force and port operators are working hard to ensure all travellers have a safe and secure journey, however we have been clear those entering the UK should expect disruption during strike action.
“We continue to work closely with port operators at a local and national level to minimise delays.”