Opinion Former Article

PCS: Immigration and coastguards hit as pay strikes continue

Immigration and asylum reporting centres were closed, hundreds of asylum interviews cancelled and juxtaposed immigration controls at Calais non-operational today, as up to 10,500 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) working for the Home Office and Border and Immigration Agency, went on strike today.

The strongly supported strike is over the government's policy to cap public sector pay below inflation which is leading to pay rises of 1.5% in the department and is part of a week of action across civil and public services over below inflation pay, which also saw 5,500 Land Registry staff walk out for two hours today.

Later today at 7pm 700 PCS members in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) will begin their 48 hour stoppage also over pay, hitting emergency 999 distress calls and operations in the UK's 19 rescue co-ordination centres. The union understands that the Royal Navy have been put on standby to provide cover.

The latest action follows three days of strike action this year and comes as pay levels in the MCA fall way behind those paid to other emergency services. The refusal to implement the findings of studies saying that their pay should be the same as other emergency services has left staff feeling betrayed and let down.

Staff are also furious over pay levels, where coastguard watch assistants, who actively participate in search planning and other duties in response to 999 calls, only earn the national minimum wage.

With starting salaries of £12,097, staff in the MCA have also been expected to stomach a pay cut in real terms with pay rises averaging just 2.5% for many and the most experienced staff receiving pay increases of less than 1%.

Today's one day strike in the Home Office, the second this year over pay, saw Leeds and Liverpool asylum reporting centres closed, pickets outside the Glasgow office and immigration officers staffing the Calais juxtaposed border controls walk out.

Next week will see further disruption with passport interviews cancelled and delays likely to occur in the issuing of passports as Identity and Passport Service staff strike for three days on 23, 24 and 25 July. The three day strike over a below inflation pay offer which sees the longest serving staff receive no pay rise at all will be followed by action short of a strike further disrupting the issuing of passports.

Commenting, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: "The strong support for this week's industrial action demonstrates the depth of anger over the government's policy of pay cuts and pay freezes. It is totally unacceptable that civil and public servants doing vital jobs, such as coastguard watch assistants, should earn just above the minimum wage and be faced with pay cuts in real terms.

"A quarter of the civil service earns less than £16,500 and it is a discredited myth that their pay fuels inflation and will plunge the country into a 1970's inflationary wage spiral if they are paid fairly. These are real people with families and mouths to feed who are being penalised by the government's unjust and immoral policy on pay. With more industrial unrest next week, the government need to review its policy of below inflation pay and recognise that it is unfairly hitting hardworking families."

ENDS

Notes to editors

* For further information, interviews and comment please contact Alex Flynn PCS national press officer on 0207 801 2820 or 07833 978216.

* PCS, the Public and Commercial Services Union is the union representing civil and public servants in central government. It has more than 315,000 members in over 200 departments and agencies. It also represents workers in parts of government transferred to the private sector. PCS is the UK's sixth largest union and is affiliated to the TUC. The general secretary is Mark Serwotka and the president Janice Godrich.

Alex Flynn
National Press Officer
Public and Commercial Services Union
160 Falcon Rd
London SW11 2LN

Direct line: 020 7801 2747
Mobile: 07833 978 216
Fax: 020 7924 1847
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