Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Strike by border staff called off

Border staff have called off strike action on the eve of the Olympics
Border staff have called off strike action on the eve of the Olympics

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 on Thursday, the day before the official opening of the Games.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said no concessions have 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 strike.

"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 the Government made "huge mistakes" in shedding thousands of jobs in recent years.

The Government had been due to seek a High Court injunction in a bid to avert the strike, before the PCS announced 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 Border Agency.

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