A planned strike tomorrow (26 July) by PCS members in the Home Office has been suspended after officials told the union last night there will be significant investment in the border force and passport service and confirmed this would mean more than 1,000 new jobs.
The strike would have included staff across the Home Office, including the UK Border Agency, the Identity and Passport Service and Criminal Records Bureau.
The union has been pressing since January 2011 for meaningful negotiations over the government’s plans to cut 8,500 Home Office jobs, a third of the workforce, including 1,000 from the border force and more than 5,000 across UKBA as a whole.
In a significant development, the Home Office is now advertising 800 new permanent jobs at the borders – including posts at Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and other airports and ports across the UK – and will be recruiting 300 new jobs in the passport service.
The union says this is 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.
Taking these factors into account, the union is announcing today that it will not go ahead with strike action planned for tomorrow and industrial action short of a strike scheduled to run until 20 August, to allow for these talks to take place.
The union adds that it had been planning to robustly defend itself against any legal challenge by the Home Office and was confident of success.
PCS general secretary Mark 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. But we first raised our concerns 18 months ago, so it is deeply regrettable that ministers allowed this dispute to escalate.
“I would like to place on record my admiration for our members in the Home Office and elsewhere who have been subjected to a disgraceful and unprecedented level of vitriol from ministers and sections of the media in recent days.
“These staff work tirelessly to serve the public and only want to improve the very important services they provide, not see them go to ruin before their eyes because of government cuts.
“I hope ministers will now take this opportunity to engage with us in meaningful negotiations to ensure these essential public services are maintained and improved long into the future, not just for the Olympics.”
PCS parliamentary group chair John McDonnell said: “Thank goodness the government has seen sense. The union has secured a tremendous breakthrough to protect its members’ jobs. “This could have been sorted weeks ago. There was no need for this heavy-handed brinkmanship by the government.”