You know what I\’d do about this PCS strike?

A strike by 25,000 British border staff aimed at \’inflicting maximum pain\’ on the eve of the Olympics has been called off this morning.

The Home Office has averted 24 hours of industrial action by members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) at airports tomorrow after agreeing a last minute deal.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka says 800 new jobs will be created in the UK Border Agency and 300 in passport offices.

I\’d wait a couple of months. Train up a few more people. Then renege on the deal.

Serwotka has quite clearly indulged in a little blackmail here and there\’s no shame in cheating a blackmailer out of the demanded reward.

42 thoughts on “You know what I\’d do about this PCS strike?”

  1. Trouble is, stockpiling a year’s supply of travellers at airports is a bit less achievable than stockpiling a year’s supply of coal at power stations.

  2. “800 new jobs will be created in the UK Border Agency and 300 in passport offices.”

    It was a mistake to back down, not least because it won’t discourage support in future strike votes (because he got something despite thin voting).

    I wouldn’t renege, but I’d ensure the new hires joined the other union. I’d also make more noise about Serwotka’s salary (see wikipedia). Apparently I’m not alone, because “mark serwotka salary” showed up in Google Instant as I began to type it.

  3. Seems like your fabled belief in the rule of law crumbles as soon as its something you happen to dislike.

    Is this a message you want to give your business partners? That anytime you don’t like a deal you’ve signed up to, you’ll renege on it if you think you can get away with it? Russia here we come, woo-hoo!

    If you’re going to strike, of course you’re going to time it to inflict maximum pain. Well, der. What do you want: them to strike at a time carefully chosen so that no-one will notice? Worstbollocks, to use your own phrase.

    Tim adds: Standard part of Common Law. Contracts and agreements made under duress are not binding.

    Close Heathrow the day before the Olympics? Yup, that’s duress.

    Fuck ’em.

  4. More from Wikipedia: “Serwotka was a member of Socialist Organiser in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was later a supporter of the Socialist Alliance and then Respect.” I don’t know how anyone could support Respect. Still, you’ve got to admit, with 1100 new members without a fight, he’s clearly on to something.

    This government will no doubt soon get a famous tax accountant to redesign the tax system.

  5. > I wouldn’t renege, but I’d ensure the new hires joined the other union

    Excellent! State control of which union you’re allowed to join. Another one voting for Russian practices. So much for liberty.

  6. Of course no self-respecting libertarian should give a tinker’s cuss for the forthcoming bread and circuses and their attendant pseudo-fascist-look-at-us-we’re-Top-Nation-ary.

    The only bit I’m going to watch is the opening ceremony, I reckon it’s going to be awfulness porn incarnate.

    Otherwise the whole tawdry shooting match can’t be over too soon for my liking.

  7. No need to renege as such. Simply introduce a new tax specific to those workers of exactly the amount they blackmailed us for. Behaviour-altering taxes are a lefty favourite, no?

    Come to think of it, isn’t it about time we taxed striking? 🙂

  8. ‘Standard part of Common Law. Contracts and agreements made under duress are not binding.’

    Fair enough, but then every individual presented with a new contract (minor or major alteration) by an employer – with the understood message that sign or we’ll replace you with someone who will – won’t they be signing under duress?

  9. Every time I fly back to East Midlands I have to queue for approx 20 minutes (which I think is probably ok), and at the head of the queue is an immigration service worker whose whole job is to point you to the next available desk, which you can see for yourself is available because it’s the one with no fucker standing there.

    Replicated at every airport and, in other ways, in every public service, this is what’s killing the country.

  10. More curious is having to have staff on nearly a 1-1 basis, for the automated face-recognition barriers. Admittedly the UK ones aren’t as easy to use, or as rapid, as the Spanish ones.

    PS. ok, “encourage” rather than “ensure”

  11. Doug, employment contracts are not actually contracts, they can’t be enforced against the employee the way a suppliers or carriers contract can be . If they could, there could not be strikes as we know them.

  12. “Well done Mark Serwotka.. workers of the world, UNITE!”

    I’m a worker. Every time the public sector gets a pay increase, that is a bit more money taken out of my pay slip. Given that some worker’s interests are in direct opposition to other worker’s interests, I don’t see how the workers of the world can unite.

  13. Damian Green has denied that there is any such deal and stated that no job adverts have been placed since the strike threat. So is (i) the government lying (fairly frequent occurrence) or is Mark Serwotka lying (habitual)?

  14. The last time I flew into Gatwick a few months ago, all the automatic retina-scanning machines were turned off. So everyone had to queue for the manned checkpoints.
    Is this a tatic to try and keep the number of jobs up?

  15. Tim: don’t rely on reports in newspapers.

    First–PCS has been trying to negotiate about 8500 planned job losses in the Home Office/Passport and tyranny dept etc. New jobs have never been one of PCS’s demands and if new jobs have been announced they are the govts doing and zero to do with the Union. Serwotka has announced to his members that the strike threat has produced an offer of more talks. Serwotka will have mentioned the new jobs to offer to try and give his members some hope that the state itself recognises the mess it has made at airports etc and might have some incentive not to go back on its word once the Olympics are done. Which is exactly what they will do. The kind of stories that have your blood pressure up Tim, have been planted in the BluLabour press to have just that effect–so that when the scum of the state welshes on its worthless promises, it can offer the excuse that their promises were made under Olympic duress. For an otherwise intelligent man Tim, you have been taken in nicely.

    Secondly–I have no objection to 8500 civil service jobs going if the obnoxious laws and oppression those jobs serve was also going. The oppression of travellers will continue however, BluLabour just wants to do it on the cheap. The new jobs will probably turn out to be little more than redeployments and the airport etc queues will continue.

    Thirdly–Edward Lud is 100% correct–the whole grotesque farce has cost nearly 15 thousand million so far–and prob will reach 25 thousand million by the time the final accounting is in. If you are so desperate to see this show Tim, you should be paying for itin full with your fellow sports-fans instead of sending the bill to the millions who won’t be watching even one minute of the tripe..

  16. Timothy A, there wasn’t a retina-scanning machine – the machines scanned irises. 🙂

    I think they are being fazed out – the official word is that they are ‘under review’. Gatwick South no longer uses them, but Gatwick North and Heathrow Terminals 1-5 will use them until after the Olympics have finished.

    By reports, the system didn’t work nearly as well as expected: some people struggled to properly line up their irises with the equipment; other people were not recognised at all and had to go through the human check.

    This could be another UK government IT cock-up, because apparently Schipol, Dubai and Frankfurt don’t suffer the same problems, BICBW.

  17. Are you sure ukliberty? Isn’t the iris the hole in the eye?

    I thought it was retina that was scanned in order to look at the unique pattern of veins. The only part the iris plays is that it is a hole that lets in light.

  18. @ChrisM, @ukliberty – They’re being phased out according to The Register for a combination of several reasons; passenger throughput (people being unable to follow the instructions on how to line up their eyes), registration levels (making it difficult to register by placing the registration sites on departure air-side and open at odd times didn’t help enrolment numbers with people rushing for flights) and accuracy (false positives/negatives levels were not what was wanted apparently).
    So now registration to the scheme is closed to new entrants, I’m not even sure renewals are available and the booths only seem to be still operating at Heathrow and maybe Gatwick.
    I used them whenever I could over the last few years, found them brilliant and had no problem with them. I’ll be sad to see them go especially as the relevant government webpage just mentioned some vague e-passport replacement planned post Olympics.
    P.S. It is the iris being scanned – it treats the pattern of the coloured part of the eye as a unique identifier. Retina scanning is a less commonly used method.

  19. PaulB, ah yes, you are right the pupil is the aperture. The iris is the blue/green/brown bit around the pupil.

    A bit of googling and it is indeed the iris which is scanned. Retina scanning is an older technique, hence my confusion. I am glad I posed my comment as a question rather than assertion.

  20. I hereby nominate Paul B as captain of the Worstall blog followers quiz team. Given that most of the readers appear to be tax exiles or to have fled the country for unspecified reasons, the team is unlikely to assemble, but you never know….

  21. Simple sums tell you how many persons you need to manage passport desks – if you know how long the processing takes. Add stiff security and the numbers go up.

    Looking at passports is not a great job and lends itself to a tintack pay structure, unfortunately the civil service is nice and kind and goes for a pyramidal pay and staffing structure. So, nice and kind or stick it out to Serco.

    Of course, it would be nice if the extra cost of extra security was dumped firmly in the lap of the requesting agency.

  22. Why don’t we have passport and visa scanning at departure gates, so that the destination airport gets advance notification of every passenger on the plane, as soon as the flight takes off?
    At least that would spread the security/ identity checking over a longer time frame, with a chance of fast tracking all those who are actually of no interest to the UKBA.

    I’m aware that not all our airport terminals are well designed vis-a-vis maintaining seperation between different planeloads, but they could be re-modelled, and we might then find that having removed the wasted effort of screening innoccuous travellers, the existing border force could concentrate on the questionable ones with greater efficiency and precision.

  23. Given the number of laws passed to make the Olympics run smoothley it’s surprising one want passed limiting the power of certain workers to strike. The administration at the time was hardly one to guarantee freedom.

    Oh, wait I remeber it was Labour…

  24. Luke, excellent definition of readership, although perhaps and/or rather than or.
    Regarding UK airports, if you have a UK epassport, which most citizens surely now do, then (in my experience) Gatwick and Luton have scanners that measure simple face recognition ratios and compare them with those (weakly) encrypted on the passport’s chip and shown in its photo. They quite often work and if they don’t the Border chappies wave you through.

  25. Colonel Blimp lives.”Just shoot these striker blighters and then they’ll do a job of work” Modern addendum ” Of course I support the democratic right to strike: in principle, but never in practice, then its blackmail”
    You’d never think from the right-wing blowhard farrago above that the union has decided NOT to strike.And the hiring of an extra 8ooBorder Agency staff is just what the most xenophobic people on here would want to keep all those foreigners at bay.

  26. DBC
    But don’t these blow-weaklings want foreigners to do all those jobs that substantiate their ludicrous unfounded mathematical claims that everyone should be paid a pittance whilst all their mates can buy shiny baubles to impress their other mates’ wives with. In another country that isn’t the UK?

    And then slag everyone off. And then call people that disagree with them idiots. And demand for them to be hanged?

  27. Oh, Arnald. I’ll give you “blow-weakling” as an attempted joke, but you don’t mean “substantiate”, “mathematical”, “everyone”, “all”, “that” or “for them”. Fair old error rate for five lines.

    I’ll also give you the hanging point. Calling for hanging (and hempen, intestines, lampposts etc) is a Jeremy Clarksonish blowhard trope Tim should really avoid. (Something, post Anders breivik, any blogger should avoid.) But to be fair he doesn’t call for the idiots to hanged – he lets you post as much as you want. It’s only the bureaucrats and politicians, especially in dear old Brussels.

  28. “You know what I’d do about this PCS strike?”

    You know who you sound like there, Tim? The Lewis Prothero character in V for Vendetta, aka “The Voice of London”.

  29. Damned if I know whether the Gatwick arrivals scanners are iris or facial recognition, but whoever thought displaying a sign before you enter, advising one to remove glasses then expecting the user to be able to read the instructions wasn’t the cleverest.

  30. Bearing in mind the chaos at immigration and the damage done by letting the wrong people in.
    I think these are public sector employees we need.

  31. (can’t believe I mispelled ‘phased’ – shocking.)

    If people are interested in how iris recognition works, the guy who developed the algorithm used in many systems is a professor at Cambridge, John Daugman, and he’s put lots of information here:

    DBC Reed

    Modern addendum: “Of course I support the democratic right to strike: in principle, but never in practice, then its blackmail”

    Inclined to agree with DBC’s point, here. If people have the right to strike surely they aren’t obliged to strike in the least inconvenient way at the least inconvenient time.

  32. Edward Lud

    Actually the torch relay was rather run. I think we should just have that and cancel the rest on grounds of national security.

  33. Frances, I learned today (at Counting Cats) that we owe the torch to the 1936 games. Pseudo-fascist indeed.

    I’d be willing to pay a subscription to any radio or television channel which promises to make no mention of the Olympics for the next six weeks. Even Radio 3’s not immune, with breathless morning commentary on the whereabouts of the bloody torch and arch suggestions from listeners as arcane links between mostly unrecognisable musical names and the torch’s current location.

  34. I am steeling myself for inadvertent cringing when sight of the whole dreadful farrago slips past my defences. I will pay it as little heed as possible, but it’s hard to avoid it altogether. As for the naffness factor, I am given to understand that Duran Duran have been booked to perform during the opening ceremony. I can only assume this is because Bananarama and Kajagoogoo were otherwise engaged.

    @rogerh #25: it is indeed a pretty simple calculation. It’s called Little’s Law. Elementary result in, appropriately enough, queueing theory.

  35. Edward Lud, I don’t currently run any form of media operation, but would happily run one that doesn’t mention the Olympics for a reasonable fee. Or better yet, not run one that does (or does not) mention the Olympics. Bank details available on request.

  36. I agree with Frances: the torch relay has been a mass participation event open to everyone and enjoyed by all who got involved, myself among them. The games themselves are more of a private party for sports officials, held at our very considerable expense.

  37. Have you considered, PaulB, to what extent the sports officials would get away with their private party at our expense without the mass participation event of the torch relay to whet the plebs’ enthusiasm and create a sense that we’re all in together as one?

  38. @Monty // post 26

    “Why don’t we have passport and visa scanning at departure gates, so that the destination airport gets advance notification of every passenger on the plane, as soon as the flight takes off?”

    Huh? The UKBA does not really care who leaves the UK, although airlines do report every passenger to the eBorders database. Airlines flying to the UK are required to submit Advance Passenger Information before they take off, and this is screened for suspicious travellers who will be met on arrival. If you mean that we should develop a system like Australia’s VEVO, then we need to have proper exit checks at all borders first.

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