By Claire West

The Home Office has been accused of trying to 'decapitate' the Public and Commercial Services union's presence in the department as it prepares to slash 8,500 jobs.

At a rally in central London the union has launched a campaign against the job cuts and the sacking of two of its senior elected reps.

Immediately after the meeting, the union hand-delivered a letter notifying the employer of its intention to ballot its 15,000 Home Office members for industrial action.

The two reps - Sue Kendal, the union's southern and south eastern branch secretary, and Home Office group president Mark Hammond, the most senior elected rep in the department - both worked as senior immigration officers in Kent.

They have been instrumental in the union's campaign against cuts to front line UK Border Agency staff in Kent, as well as a campaign against a cut in agreed allowances for UKBA staff working on immigration controls in northern France.
Mark and Sue were sacked last autumn for unsubstantiated allegations relating to a satirical newsletter in which some senior managers felt they had been lampooned.

The union believes the Home Office seized on the opportunity to conduct a biased and unbalanced investigation and dismissed them, despite a lack of evidence.

The union's anti-victimisation campaign was launched at a meeting at The Emmanuel Centre, in Marsham Street, just yards from the Home Office headquarters.

The union has now notified the Home Office of its intention to ballot its members for industrial action short of a strike. In the event of any compulsory redundancies, the union will ballot for a strike.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "As the Home Office gears up to make massive job cuts, its senior managers are trying to decapitate our union to silence any signs of workplace dissent. This is nothing more than blatant victimisation of elected union reps and we will do everything possible to defend them and to oppose the government's cuts.

"We do not accept the need for cuts and we will continue to make the case for the alternative of investment in our public services and proper resources to tackle the tax dodgers who deprive our public finances of tens of billions of pounds every year."