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article imageUK border guards to strike on eve of London Olympics 2012

By Anne Sewell     Jul 21, 2012 in Sports
London - As the Olympic Flame finally arrives in London, ready for Olympics 2012, border guards will be going out on strike for 24 hours, just as the Games begin.
With great ceremony, the Olympic Flame arrived in the hosting city yesterday and was delivered to the Tower of London for safekeeping by a Royal Marine Commando, who abseiled from a helicopter. The Flame will be stored in the Tower of London until the Games officially start and will then be moved to the Olympic Park.
London Mayor, Boris Johnson, announced on its arrival that "its radiance will dispel any last remaining clouds of dampness and anxiety that may hover over some parts of the media in this country. It will spread the crackling bushfire of Olympic enthusiasm throughout this city and the country."
"I pledge that we will keep that flame burning brightly, that it may illuminate the many wonderful things about our city and our Olympics, tonight and tomorrow and in the weeks ahead," he added.
However, despite this very auspicious ceremony, and right as things are about to kick off, so to speak, U.K. border staff have decided to go on strike for 24 hours, just as the London Olympics begin.
Digital Journal reported recently that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will be assisting with London airport security during the Olympics, and that around 500 FBI agents will also be visiting London. Sounds like they are really going to need them.
The move by the border officers threatens to cause traffic chaos on what is to be the busiest day in the history of London Heathrow Airport, with around 130,000 passengers arriving for the opening event.
U.K. Home Secretary, Theresa May, is calling the move "shameful", and is accusing the border staff union of sabotaging the games. She said: "They are holding a strike on what is one of the key days for people coming in for the Olympic Games."
"We will of course put contingency arrangements in place to ensure we can deal with people coming through the border as smoothly as possible."
Conservative MPs are saying that the border guards are "holding the country ransom."
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has urged border staff not to strike on the eve of the Olympics. He says the strike is "totally wrong" and "I don't think this should be happening. Nothing must be allowed to disrupt the Olympic Games."
"I implore anybody involved in these strikes not to go ahead with them. I don't think it is right for the country, I think it will cause disruption and I don't think it's what people want to see," he added.
The reason for the strike is pay and job cuts, and around 5,500 workers will be walking out in protest. The border guards have also refused to work overtime during the Olympics. Union officials are stating that they will stage the strike, despite the fact that only a tenth of the Public and Commercial Services Union support it, and with only half of the union having voted.
Public and Commercial Services Union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The lives of staff have been made intolerable by these cuts and they're at breaking point. Ministers have known about these issues for a very long time and need to act now to sort out the chaos they have caused.
"They're acting recklessly in cutting so many jobs and privatizing services, and are provocatively refusing to talk to us with a genuine desire to reach an agreement."
Authorities have provided 1,200 security forces who are on standby in case of staff shortages and the border force is also hoping that "hit squads" of up to 500 extra immigration officials from other areas will be able to assist.
This move by the border guards comes as the U.K. government increases the number of military troops assigned to guard the Olympics, making a total of 17,000 soldiers.
A week ago, a no-fly zone was imposed over the city. The Royal Air Force is now authorized to use "lethal force", against any plane, including passengers jets, that violates the city's air space.
RT points out that these latest measures only serve to amplify existing concerns over the huge military presence at the Olympics. They further point out that the number of active troops in Afghanistan is 9,500, which is 7,500 less than the number of military personnel involved in the Olympic Games.
U.K. taxpayers will apparently be paying around £1.5 billion ($2.3 billion) for the security for the Games.
More about London, Olympics, 2012, Border guards, United Kingdom
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