UK immigration staff call off Olympic Strike…for now

The planned 24-hour strike by UK immigration staff, which had been called for Thursday 26th July, the eve of the London Olympic Games, was called off on Wednesday by the Public and Commercial Services Union less than 48 hours before the Games' opening ceremony. Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS, said that the union had not abandoned the threat of industrial action and that he was now proposing a sustained campaign of industrial action in the autumn if the union's demands were not met.

The PCS had come under sustained pressure not to disrupt the Olympics from the UK's three main political parties since the strike was announced last week. At a press conference yesterday, Mr Serwotka said that members of his union had come under 'disgraceful' attack from the government but said that the union had decided to call off the strike for now. He said that this was because officials had revealed, during negotiations on Tuesday, that the government planned to recruit 800 new staff in immigration control and to create 300 extra jobs in the passport service. Mr Serwotka said that he was pleased that the government seemed to be relenting on its plans to reduce the size of the UK's immigration service. He said 'These new jobs are a welcome step towards recognition that the Home Office is cracking under the strain of massive job losses and that the answer is not more cuts but more investment.'

However, later on Wednesday, Immigration Minister Damian Green denied that the government planned to create the jobs. He said that the government had no plans to recruit more staff and that 'posts are being advertised to fill gaps left by normal staff turnover.' A Home Office spokesman said that the department had made 'no concessions to the PCS' and that it was not creating any new jobs. He said that 400 new posts had been announced in June and that these posts had been placed on the Civil Service Jobs website twice by mistake. 'This will now be corrected' he added.

The government had earlier launched proceedings in the High Court in London seeking an injunction to prevent the strike because of irregularities in the ballot. That action has been stayed.

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