PCS calls off ‘Olympic strike’ after 1100 new staff posted at airports, passport offices

Union says it made 'considerable progress' on issues of staffing at border controls, passport offices during 11th hour talks with Home Office. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka says prospect of strike has 'focussed minds' in government.
by - 25th July 2012, 11.14 GMT

PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka has announced the union has called off the planned Home Office strike.

It follows a meeting between union officials and the Home Office yesterday at which he said the union had made ‘genuine progress’ on their issues of concern.

The decision comes ahead of a hearing at the High Court in London at which government lawyers are seeking an injunction to try to stop the planned strike tomorrow by thousands of Home Office staff.

Mark Serwotka said the case rested on a ‘minor technicality’ over 12 members based in continental Europe and that the union was in discussion with Treasury lawyers of whether the two sides would continue with the legal case.

Mark Serwotka said last night’s talks had released ‘significant new investment’ in Home Office staffing at border controls, with 800 new jobs, including at Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton airports and a further 300 jobs at passport offices.

Also speaking at the news conference at PCS head office, the secretary of the union’s Home Office section, Paul O’Connor said members preparing to go on strike had been subjected to ‘absolutely outrageous vilification’ in the run-up to the strike.

“They have stood firm in the face of that vilification.

“This is a significant step forward in terms of jobs in very crucial public services and that our people in this country depend upon.”

Officials describe the government’s change of heart as ‘a welcome step towards a recognition that the Home Office has been cracking under the strain of massive job cuts’ – with long queues at airports, a backlog of 276,000 unresolved immigration and asylum cases, and reports of holidaymakers having to wait weeks and travel miles across the country to get a passport.

The union says it has secured a commitment to ongoing negotiations to address the issues under dispute, in particular efforts to avoid compulsory redundancies in the passport agency.

Mark Serwotka told the news conference that management had agreed to discuss whether ‘a handful’ of compulsory redundancy notices against workers at passport offices in south Wales can be resolved.

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