British border guards call off pre-Games strike | Pakistan Today

British border guards call off pre-Games strike

British border officials called off Wednesday a strike planned for the eve of the London Olympics, but travel woes still stalked the event as special lanes for Games traffic caused tailbacks.
Organisers said the British capital was “moving well” despite the opening of the widely-disliked Olympic road lanes for the first time and a fresh outbreak of problems with the the creaky Underground railway system. Union leaders said they had reached a deal with the government in a dispute over jobs and had scrapped a 24-hour walkout by immigration officials scheduled for Thursday, the day before the opening ceremony of the Games. The strike had threatened to cause disruption at London Heathrow, the gateway airport for the Olympics.
Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka told a press conference that 800 new jobs would be created in the border force and 300 in passport offices. “We are pleased that with these new posts and the progress made in talks we are able to avert a strike ahead of the Olympics,” Serwotka said. The British goverment — which saw the Olympic build-up darkened on Wednesday by figures showing worse than expected economic numbers — had been due to go to court Wednesday to prevent the strike going ahead.
Immigration Minister Damian Green welcomed the union’s decision to call off the “irresponsible strike”, saying it was not supported by a majority of union members. But he disputed the figures given by the union and said that “no concessions have been made by the government.” Queues at Heathrow had been “almost non-existent” in the past week, Green added, despite fears of chaos after long lines built up at the border there earlier in the year due to a shortage of immigration officials. Heathrow’s Spanish-owned operator BAA said it was “great news” that passengers arriving for the Olympics on Thursday would have a “smooth journey through Heathrow”.
The government said around 3,500 members of the “Games Family” were due to arrive in Britain on Wednesday, including more than 1,000 athletes. A total of 18,700 delegates have arrived so far, including more than 5,500 athletes, from a total of 175 countries.
The need to keep Olympic visitors moving smoothly around the clogged British capital prompted the government to create a network of 30 miles (50 kilometres) of Games Lanes, which came into force on Wednesday. Unauthorised drivers face a fine of £130 ($201, 166 euros) for using them. They have been nicknamed “Zil Lanes” by sceptical Londoners after lanes once used by the limousines of Soviet leaders.
Television footage showed a handful of brightly coloured Olympics cars speeding past lines of slow moving traffic. There was an eight-mile tailback on the M4 motorway, the main road linking the capital to Heathrow, said Transport for London (TfL), the city’s public transport authority.

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