Talks due later today which PCS says could prevent strike action on Thursday, ‘if ministers show flexibility’ over Home Office job cuts


Talks are due later today which PCS says ‘could prevent’ strike action on Thursday which is highly contested by the government, from going ahead.

(Pictured: PCS members support striking teachers, Whitehall, March 28 2012)

The dispute centres on job cuts and privatisation at the Home Office.

It is understood that informal talks have been taking place behind the scenes, but PCS officials insist the action will go ahead unless ministers ‘show some flexibility’ over key issues, such as compulsory redundancy notices already handed out to staff in south Wales.

Today’s negotiations come after a report by senior MPs criticised the UK Border Agency – the largest agency in the Home Office – for failing to tackle a total casework backlog of more than 270,000.

The Home Affairs Select Committee points out that the immigration group, the section with the largest backlog of work, has seen the biggest cuts in staffing.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “UKBA is clearly unable to cope and the backlogs are simply staggering.

“Staff from casework have been transferred to passport controls in what has been a shambolic attempt to mask serious shortages in the border force that have caused chaos and embarrassment at the borders.

“These issues lie at the very heart of our dispute, which threatens to boil over into industrial action later this week unless ministers agree to allow their officials to talk to us in a genuine effort to resolve matters.

“The Home Office simply cannot cut 8,500 jobs, a third of its workforce, and expect to maintain services to the public and the report exposes the folly of the department issuing compulsory redundancy notices to staff when it is clearly unable to cope with its workload.”

The union is also continuing to demand an explanation from the BBC over a radio interview on Sunday with the Olympics minister, Jeremy Hunt in which the presenter suggested PCS strikers should be sacked.

PCS officials say they are concerned that the interview – in which 5 Live’s Gary Richardson commended the government for bringing in staff designed to nullify the effect of the strike at London’s airports – is ‘fuelling anti-union animosity’.

UnionNews understands the union has written formally to the BBC, saying that comments in the interview and the tone of Gary Richardson’s questions could threaten the safety of frontline staff at UK border control points if the strike goes ahead.

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