Union calls on Home Office to hold genuine talks on how cuts are affecting immigration backlog


The PCS union today calls on Home Office ministers to hold genuine talks to settle longstanding issues including thousands of job cuts that have caused chaos at our borders.

With MPs tomorrow expected to debate cuts in the UK Border Agency, and the resulting queues at airports, the union says it is irresponsible for the government to continue to refuse to act on the concerns of its staff who are trying to make things better.

As a result of cuts announced in October 2010 the Home Office is on course to shed one third of its workforce by 2015.

UKBA, the department’s largest agency, is already well on the way to cutting 22% of its staff – 5,300 jobs – during this period. In the six months before October 2010, the agency had already cut 1,500 staff.

This is completely unsustainable, the union says, and has led to panic redeployment measures and the use of under-trained staff on passport gates.

Pressed by the home affairs select committee on May 15th, immigration minister Damian Green repeatedly refused to commit to meet with the union to discuss the effect of these cuts.

Mr Green finally agreed to a meeting at the end of last week with the union and John McDonnell MP, chair of PCS’s parliamentary group, but failed to offer any indication he was prepared to negotiate, and offered no assurances about future job security or about providing the standard of service staff consistently say they want to be able to deliver.

As well as staffing cuts, UKBA is still battling huge backlogs in immigration and casework and is planning to privatise more of this work.

Two senior PCS reps in UKBA were sacked 18 months ago on what the union believes were trumped up charges because of their opposition to the cuts.  Many of the problems they were raising have now come to the public’s attention recently, with the shambles over passport checking and queues at airports.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “What the government is doing is making the situation worse, we are trying to make things better. There are few clearer signs that austerity isn’t working than the chaos at our borders and across UKBA.

“These are longstanding issues, which ministers have known about for a long time and have chosen not to act upon. We continue to press for genuine negotiations, but the constraints put on talks by ministers are making it extremely difficult.”

John McDonnell, whose constituency includes Heathrow airport, said: “Just at the time when people will be flocking to this country to the most prestigious global sporting event, staff cuts in UKBA are leading to chaotic management, queues and security risks at border control. The government can’t say it wasn’t warned.”

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