Plans for a strike on the day before the Olympics opening ceremony
LONDON July 20: Home Office staff including border officials have confirmed plans for a strike on the day before the Olympics opening ceremony, threatening long passport queues at Heathrow airport when arrivals are predicted to be busiest.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services union working in the Home Office, including 5,500 in the Border Agency, voted on Wednesday for industrial action. The general secretary, Mark Serwotka, has confirmed that a one-day strike will go ahead on 26 July, with a work-to-rule and overtime ban for the rest of the Olympic period. Next Thursday is forecast by Heathrow as the peak arrival day for sponsors and international media.
David Cameron earlier took time out from a visit to Afghanistan to condemn the planned strike. He said: "I do not believe it will be right. I do not believe it will be justified."
The PCS leadership says the strike is necessary to highlight what it describes as a "public service falling apart at the seams" with thousands of job cuts, and to protest against eroded pay and working conditions as well as the privatisation of civil service jobs.
While previous strikes in May and last November did not lead to significant extra queues, the union claims that untrained Home Office replacements did not adequately scrutinise passports to avoid any repeat of the lengthy waits that made headlines internationally. The Border Force is already stretched, with supplementary staff enlisted to keep queues to a minimum.
The PCS balloted almost 16,000 Home Office employees working in the Identity and Passport Service, the Criminal Records Bureau and the Border Agency.