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Heathrow strike threat: Border staff call off industrial action

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PUBLISHED: 04:46 EST, 26 July 2012 | UPDATED: 04:46 EST, 26 July 2012

A strike by border staff that could have potentially crippled Heathrow airport on the day of the Olympics opening ceremony has been called off.

The climbdown came hours after ministers revealed that more than enough border staff had volunteered to work to ensure Heathrow, which is expecting its busiest ever day as thousands arrive for the Games, operated as normal.

Fury: Home Secretary Theresa May has written an open letter to border staff urging them to defy the walkout and 'do what their country needs'

Fury: Home Secretary Theresa May wrote an open letter to border staff urging them to defy the walkout and 'do what their country needs' before the deal was done

Militant union chiefs admitted their threat to the start of the Olympics had prompted ‘abuse and vitriol’.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, insisted he had ‘no regrets’ about plotting the strike, which had been planned to cause chaos on Britain’s borders today.

The Government could still take court action to stop immigration and customs staff from striking on Thursday

Mr Serwotka sought to save face by claiming the Home Office had agreed to create an extra 1,100 jobs, 800 at the UK Border Force and 300 at the Passport Office.

But ministers said no posts were being created in response to his strike threat, and they had been planned for some time to plug vacancies.

Home Secretary Theresa May wrote an open letter to border staff urging them to defy the walkout and 'do what their country needs' before the deal was done
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka claims his strike plans will not affect the Olympics

Damian Green, the immigration minister, said: ‘We are pleased that the PCS leadership has seen sense and called off this irresponsible strike which was not supported by the majority of members.

The Government have a contingency plan should UK border staff stage a 24-hour walkout on what is predicted to be Heathrow's busiest day in the airport's history

Preparations: The Government have a contingency plan should UK border staff stage a 24-hour walkout which will portray Britain in a poor light to the thousands of foreign visitors flocking into the UK for the games

‘During the past week, our staff have shown fantastic dedication and commitment during an extremely busy period.

‘Queues at Heathrow have been almost non-existent and athletes and visitors from around the world have received a welcome of which the country can be proud.’

Mr Serwotka admitted the strike had triggered a backlash, with critics warning it would bring shame on Britain with the eyes of the world on this country.

He said: ‘We have been subjected to the most extraordinary level of vitriol and abuse in the last week [since the strike date was announced]. The abuse directed at front-line public sector staff is completely and utterly unwarranted.’

A spokesman for airports operator BAA said: ‘So far passengers arriving for the Olympics have had a smooth journey through Heathrow and it is great news that those arriving tomorrow can also expect a warm welcome to London and the Games.’

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