Up to 5,500 immigration officials are expected to strike next Thursday in a dispute over job cuts and pay, which will disrupt nearly 130,000 passengers arriving the day before the Olympic opening ceremony.
The striking workers, from the Public and Commercial Services Union, will also refuse to work overtime during the rest of the Games.
Last night, senior Conservative MPs accused the union of ‘holding the country to ransom’ and Home Secretary Theresa May said the action was ‘shameful’.
However, Press Association industrial correspondent Alan Jones suggested that timing the industrial action to coincide with London 2012 was the only way to gain major cut-through for the union.
He said: ‘If the strike had been called during a non-Olympic week it would hardly have been covered by the media, so the PCS is justified in putting the issues of job losses, pay cuts and privatisation of public services in the spotlight.’
But Fleishman-Hillard head of public affairs and corporate comms Nick Williams stated: ‘At a time when security is in the media spotlight more widely, this is simply at attempt to piggy back on the issue for their own gain. This will be seen as a blatant attempt at holding the country to ransom to ransom and will be detrimental to their long term reputation and cause.’
The PCS issued the announcement that they would strike ‘on the eve of the Olympics’ yesterday by press release, including a quote from PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka that stated: ‘The lives of staff have been made intolerable by these cuts and they're at breaking point.’
May responded: ‘They are holding a strike on what is one of the key days for people coming into this country for the Olympic Games. I believe it is not right for them to hold a strike. They will risk damaging people’s enjoyment of coming through into the UK.’
The announcement has attracted huge amounts of international coverage, and comes as London Mayor Boris Johnson made an announcement for those worrying about the Olympics to ‘put a sock in it’, stop complaining and get behind Team GB for the Games.