Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Axing of UKBA strikers 'discussed'

Ministers have discussed sacking UK Border Agency staff threatening to strike ahead of the Olympics, Jeremy Hunt has admitted

Ministers have discussed sacking UK Border Agency staff threatening to strike ahead of the Olympics, Jeremy Hunt has admitted.

The Culture Secretary insisted he did not want to "escalate" the row ahead of the planned walkout of immigration workers but said questions about their employment had been raised.

Thousands of staff at the Home Office, including the UKBA workers, are to stage a 24-hour strike the day before the opening of the Olympics in a row over jobs, pay and other issues.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said its members will walk out on July 26 and will take other forms of industrial action, such as a ban on overtime, from July 27 to August 20.

Mr Hunt told Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek: "We have a contingency plan in place and I am absolutely confident that we will get everyone into the country. They're not going to stop anyone getting in and this is not the time to be pursuing this kind of dispute.

"Sack them? That is the Ronald Reagan approach and I can tell you amongst ministers there have been people asking whether we should be doing that, but I don't want to escalate things by talking about that right now, because I know amongst those 600 people there are lots of people who want to do the right thing and turn up for work."

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said he still hoped the dispute could be avoided and going on strike was a "last resort".

He said: "We've still got a few days to avoid the dispute, I've written to Theresa May, we've written to the management of the Home Office. We still hope and believe the dispute can be avoided, but going on strike is a last resort and I think (people) deserve to know why we're doing it.

"8,500 jobs are being cut, 22% of staff at the border are to lose their jobs even though we routinely have queues and passenger anger is rising all the time and we've had compulsory redundancy notices issued to people in passport offices when you cannot get a passport at the moment because the service cannot cope.

"So these are not demands about personal gain, they are about defending important services, the security of the country and ensuring that people still have the chance to work all the year round. That's why it's disappointing the Government have failed to talk to us for the last year, which is why we've had to take this last resort action."

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