UK border staff Olympic strike abandoned

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the largest civil services trade union in the United Kingdom, yesterday reversed its decision to hold a strike for its UK Home Office worker members scheduled for today, the day before the Olympic Games are due to start in London. The strike, which was called last week as a result of job reductions being made, would have affected the UK Border Agency (UKBA), the Identity and Passport Service, and the Criminal Records Bureau, at London Heathrow Airport amongst other UK airports.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka cited the "significant development" of the creation of 1100 new job positions, 800 in the UKBA and 300 in the Passport Service, as the reason for the union's decision change. "We believe that significant progress means that there is no case for the union to proceed with industrial action tomorrow," Serwotka said yesterday morning. The PCS also reported position recruitment advertisements appearing on the Internet for London Heathrow, London Luton and Gatwick Airport.

However, the UK government's Home Office denied that they had created such positions. "We have made no concessions to the PCS and are not creating any new jobs in response to their threat of strike action", a spokesperson for the Home Office stated. Saying the recruitment effort, initiated two months ago, was amongst scheduled modifications to the UK Border Force, the spokesperson clarified: "Unfortunately, due to an administrative error, a figure of 400 posts was repeated in both adverts by mistake. This will now be corrected".

Serwotka's announcement was made one hour before lawyers representing the UK government had been due at the High Court to attempt to gain an injunction preventing the strike. According to the PCS, the government's plan was based on accusations that twelve staff members in Brussels and Paris became involved in the dispute despite the fact they would be unaffected.

What do you think about the decision of the PCS?

The PCS' decision was welcomed by airport operating company BAA. "So far passengers arriving for the Olympics have had a smooth journey through Heathrow and it is great news that those arriving tomorrow can also expect a warm welcome to London and the Games", a spokeswoman for BAA said yesterday. UK Home Secretary Theresa May had considered the PCS' plans "opportunist and wholly unjustified". Serwotka said he had "[a]bsolutely no regrets" about his previous decision to call the strike.

The PCS has also postponed plans to launch a work-to-rule initiative during the 2012 Summer Olympics.