The government is drawing up contingency plans to minimise disruption because of a 24-hour strike called by a section of immigration staff at Heathrow airport on July 26, a day before the start of the Olympics.
Describing the strike as “shameful” and an attempt to “sabotage” the Games, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “We will put contingency arrangements in place to ensure we can deal with people coming through the border as smoothly as possible.”
She said the strike was being held on “what is one of the key days for people coming in for the Olympic Games”.
“I think that’s shameful, frankly.” Immigration Minister Damian Green said staff from the Home Office and other departments had been trained to handle immigration desks. Trade unions accused the government of “whipping up hysteria” to defame workers. “I think the government is whipping up hysteria about the Olympics, there’ll be no disruption to the Olympics, this is a 24-hour strike before the Olympics actually takes place,” said the Union which has called the strike in a row over pay and proposed job cuts.
He said it could still be averted if ministers were willing to sit down and talk.
“It’s a shame it’s come to this, but we can sort this before next week if ministers get their head out of the sand and get around the negotiating table,” he said.
Culture and Media Secretary Jeremy Hunt denounced the action a day before the Games as “totally irresponsible”.
“To suggest that it won’t cause disruption is so extraordinary that it completely beggars belief,” he said.
Ed Miliband, leader of the Opposition Labour Party, said that “nothing must be allowed to disrupt the Olympics Games”.
The strikes comes amid a wave of controversies over security, transport and sponsorship ahead of the Games.