The Corner

Unions vs. the London Olympics

As ever, Britain’s unions have impeccable timing. According to the BBC:

Thousands of Home Office staff will strike the day before the Olympics open, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union has said.

PCS members will strike for 24 hours next Thursday — when many thousands of visitors are due to arrive in the UK.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the action was “shameful” as it threatens disruption to people travelling to London for the Games.

Immigration minister Damian Green said contingency plans were in place.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka told the BBC: “I think the government is whipping up hysteria about the Olympics, there’ll be no disruption to the Olympics, this is a 24-hour strike before the Olympics actually takes place.”

Mark Serwotka is employing a rather interesting definition of “the government” here. Naturally, the prime minister, the home secretary, the culture secretary, and the immigration minister are opposed to the union’s plan. But evidently so is Ed Miliband, the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition and a darling of the unions, who has said rather flatly that “people should not be disrupting the Olympic Games.” Especially, perhaps, when only 20 percent of the PCS voted on the ballot at all, and just over half of those involved elected to strike.

Immigration minister Damien Green, who likely has enough on his plate this month without the added headache of public-sector union extortion, pointed to the unrepresentative nature of the action: “If this strike goes ahead,” he said, “it will be a selfish and irresponsible act by the union leadership, they have got no authority for this, only about a fifth of the membership voted in the ballot, and of that small minority only just over half want to go on strike.” The Home Secretary echoed Green’s sentiment, criticizing the “strike action backed by only one in ten PCS members.”

The strike will include “staff across the Home Office, including the UK Border Agency, the Identity and Passport Service and Criminal Records Bureau” just as millions of tourists pour into London for the world’s most high-profile sports event. (Heathrow Airport alone is expecting a surge of 126,000 people next Thursday.) What could possibly go wrong?#more#

Meanwhile, more strikes are planned by East Midlands Trains’ drivers, who are represented by the Aslef union. Again, from the BBC:

Strikes by drivers at East Midlands Trains have been planned for three days during the London 2012 Olympics in a row over pensions.

Members of the train drivers’ union Aslef have scheduled industrial action for 6, 7, and 8 August.

It said talks with East Midlands Trains had failed to produce a breakthrough over pension contribution cuts.

The rail operator said Aslef was “playing games” and the strikes were a “kick in the teeth” for customers.

At least Britain will win at something. “If there were an Olympic sport of self-interest,” said transport secretary Justine Greening, “union leaders would win it hands down.” 

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