London 2012 Olympics: Strike called off after jobs pledge to borders staff
THE threat of travel chaos for overseas visitors to the Olympics has been averted at the last minute when a planned strike by thousands of workers, including immigration officers, was called off.
The Public and Commercial Services union said the government was planning to recruit 1,100 staff for the Border Agency and passport service in response to complaints that thousands of job cuts were hitting services.
The union said news of 800 new jobs in the Border Agency and 300 in passport offices was revealed to officials during last-ditch talks and was enough to suspend strike action today, the day before the official opening of the Games.
Immigration minister Damian Green said no concessions had been made by the government, adding that he did not recognise the figure of 800 new jobs, maintaining that no new jobs have been advertised since the union threatened to take industrial action.
“Posts are being advertised to fill gaps left by normal staff turnover,” he said.
An advert on a civil service website details hundreds of border force vacancies across the country, at salaries ranging from £21,505 to £26,079 outside London and slightly more in the capital and at Gatwick.
PCS leader Mark Serwotka said the new jobs proved that the government made “huge mistakes” in shedding thousands of jobs in recent years.
The move represented “major progress” in the dispute, but a number of issues remained
unresolved, including compulsory redundancies and caps on pay rises.
The PCS said its members had been subjected to “disgraceful” attacks from government
ministers since the strike
announcement last week.
The government had been due to seek a High Court injunction in an attempt to avert the strike, before the PCS announced that the action was not going ahead.
The union said the legal challenge was based on a claim that 12 staff in Paris and Brussels were being involved in the dispute when they were not covered by the issues.
Mr Serwotka said: “These new jobs are a welcome step towards a recognition that the Home
Office has been cracking under the strain of massive job losses, and that the answer is not more cuts, but more investment.
“We are pleased that with these new posts and the progress made in talks we are able to avert a strike ahead of the Olympics.”
He said ministers and right-wing commentators had subjected union members to an “unprecedented level of vitriol” over the past week.
The union said it had been pressing for talks for 18 months over government plans to cut 8,500 jobs in the Home Office, including thousands in the
Mr Serwotka said the union became aware of the new jobs at a meeting with Home Office
officials on Tuesday, although he believed that they were communicated internally after the strike was announced last week.
It was “extraordinary” that the new posts had not been
formally announced by the government, he added.
“We first raised our concerns 18 months ago so it is deeply regrettable that ministers allowed this dispute to escalate.”
Mr Green said: “We are pleased that the PCS leadership has seen sense and called off this irresponsible strike which was not supported by the majority of members.
“During the last week, our staff have shown fantastic dedication and commitment during an extremely busy period.
“Queues at Heathrow have been almost non-existent and athletes and visitors from around the world have received a welcome of which the country can be proud.”
A spokeswoman for airports operator BAA said: “We welcome the decision by the PCS to call off the strike.
“So far passengers arriving for the Olympics have had a smooth journey through
Heathrow and it is great news that those arriving can also
expect a warm welcome to
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “As Ed Miliband has made clear, nobody wants to see the Olympics disrupted, so it is welcome that there will now be no strike at the borders this week.
“Everyone wants to see a successful Olympic Games and the whole country is now pulling together to make that a reality.”
London mayor Boris Johnson said: “I’m pleased that PCS bosses have applied some common sense and called off this strike. It would have been wholly wrong and deeply irresponsible to go ahead with industrial action.”
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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