Further threat of industrial action at DVLA offices in Swansea over concerns about staff safety
DVLA headquarters in Swansea face a further threat of industrial action as concerns over the health and safety of staff.
At the start of the 20th week of the dispute over adequate measures to protect staff from Covid-19, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is seeking the views of its members on intensifying action.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has written to the DVLA warning them that workers should not be blamed for delaying DVLA services as a result of the dispute.
“It’s not our members who are concerned about their safety, it’s the fault of the DVLA management and the Government,” he said.
“In June, we held discussions with DVLA management to secure a fair settlement that would end the dispute.
“We were then informed that this agreement had been rejected by the Government at the eleventh hour.
“Agreements should not be rejected by Government Ministers without justification or explanation. It is clear that this decision to veto the agreement has exacerbated the delay. ”
Mark Serwotka that the continuing increase in infection rates across Wales was exacerbating the situation.
“Covid outbreaks in Wales are now at their highest since the second peak in January, with Swansea having the highest infection rates in the country, with 500 per 100,000 people,” he said.
“This context is important because this dispute is about a fundamental right: the right for staff to be safe in their place of work.
“After everything they’ve been through, our members are still determined to get the settlement they deserve.”
A DVLA spokesman said the safety of their staff was “paramount” to them.
“Staff who can carry out their role from home continue to do so, while those who are unable to do so work from the site,” they said.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have worked closely with Public Health Wales together with Swansea’s Environmental Health Department and the Health and Safety Executive, who have conducted site visits and inspections and have repeatedly confirmed a high level of compliance with control measures.”
Motorists are being warned that paper applications to renew driving licenses could face lengthy delays due to Covid restrictions and ongoing industrial action at the DVLA’s Swansea HQ.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) have been staging a series of strikes in response to what it says are “unsafe” working conditions during the pandemic.
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.
Last month the union claimed that 800,000 letters were waiting to be opened at the offices with a further 60,000 arriving each day and according to the DVLA there are currently around 1.4 million items waiting to be processed, more than three times the usual number.
The agency is urging motorists to use online services when possible and say “the have not been impacted by the pandemic and continue to run as normal and without any delays.”
“There are delays in processing paper applications due to ongoing industrial action and social distancing requirements, which means that we have had fewer staff than usual on site at any one time,” a DVLA spokesperson added.
“Paper applications are taking on average, between six and ten weeks to process but there may be longer delays for more complex transactions such as those that require medical investigations.
“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, including some of the more vulnerable people in society.
“As restrictions are easing and life is returning to normal, millions of people right across the UK, from those applying for their first provisional driving licence, to traders selling cars, are relying on essential DVLA services. PCS’s demands are causing significant and unnecessary disruption to families and businesses, all at a time when they are most needed.”
In July the PCS served notice of a further 4 weeks of targeted industrial action at the DVLA with members in the drivers medical group walking out from 2 to 31 August.
The drivers’ medical group is the department which decides whether drivers who have medical conditions are fit to drive safely, and the union said this latest action was chosen “due to its strategic importance to the agency and the fact that ministers are assigning huge importance to the backlogs in this area.”
The union claims a deal to end the dispute was agreed over two months ago but was scuppered following the intervention of the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.