DVLA strikes: Union urges members to ‘stay strong’ despite huge backlog building up
Workers at the Covid-hit DVLA offices in Swansea will carry out further strikes next week despite a huge backlog of applications building up.
Ten days ago it was reported that 800,000 letters were waiting to be opened at the offices with a further 60,000 arriving each day.
Strikes by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have been staged in response to what it calls “unsafe” working conditions.
Some 600 of the DVLA’s 6,000-strong workforce are reported to have had Covid, although the organisation says it has followed Government advice at every stage.
A message on the union’s website states: “Despite our demand to pause return to work, rapid increases in positive Covid cases in Swansea Bay, rising positive cases on-site and a pause to the easing of restrictions, the DVLA has pressed on with its plans to bring 450 more staff on site.
“We can confirm that next week’s planned strike action will go ahead on Monday (July 5), Wednesday (7th), and Friday (9th). This applies to all staff who work in, or are on loan to, Drivers Medical, whether working in the office or from home.”
The message adds: “The strike action continues to be as well supported as ever and it is the resolve of each and every one of us that will win this dispute.
In its latest campaign video message, Mark Serwotka said that “the might of the entire trade union movement is behind us in winning this dispute.”
And in a joint message Mark Serewotka and Sarah Evans state: “We are now at a point with backlogs that senior ministers cannot ignore our members anymore. It is only a matter of time before they have to intervene. Until then, we must continue to stand united.
“Our members can’t let the agency put productivity before their health and safety. We can’t risk needlessly losing another colleague.”
“From enabling more staff to work from home to protecting members going through the attendance process and fighting the injustice of members suffering loss off pay due to long Covid, having caught it on DVLA sites. The impact of Covid-19 on our working lives is here to stay and there’s still so much for our members to achieve in this dispute.
“We must hold firm now to send the message that we will not allow the DVLA to act as recklessly with our members’ health and safety as they did before.”
The PCS said that an agreement which could have ended the dispute was withdrawn at the last-minute by the employer at the end of last month.
The dispute was raised at the Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons last week.
Labour MP for Neath, Christina Rees used her first ever PMQ to question the PM about the decision of Dft and DVLA management to increase the number of staff attending the office at DVLA HQ in Swansea.
Since June, when numbers attending the office were over 2,000, an additional 450 staff have been “forced back into work despite Covid-19 rates in the Swansea Bay area increasing substantially,” the PCS claimed.
In her question the MP asked: “Why does the prime minister feel it is so acceptable for the DVLA to have returned over 450 staff to its Swansea site, contrary to government advice, as some of them can work and have been working effectively and safely from home?”
In reply Boris Johnson said that as he understood it “rates of infection and disease have been declining at the DVLA site.”
A DVLA spokesperson said: “It’s disappointing that the Public and Commercial Services Union is choosing to continue with industrial action and targeting services that will have the greatest negative impact on the public and businesses, just as restrictions are starting to ease.
“We have been negotiating in good faith and will continue to do so with the aim of finding a workable solution.
“The safety of our staff is paramount and since the beginning of the year we have implemented weekly Covid testing for everyone. Since the outbreak of the pandemic we have reorganised our eight buildings in line with official advice, and utilised space in a newly-leased building to further assist with social distancing measures. We have also installed thermal imaging cameras to carry out temperature checks on people entering the buildings.
“As these measures have been implemented, we have worked closely with Public Health Wales along with Swansea Environmental Health and the Health and Safety Executive, who have conducted regular site visits and inspections and have repeatedly confirmed a high level of compliance with control measures.
“Millions of people right across the UK are relying on essential DVLA services and PCS’s demands will cause significant and unnecessary disruption to families and businesses, all at a time when they they are most needed.”