DVLA Covid-19 office safety dispute enters 20th week

A dispute over Covid-related safety at the head office of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is entering its 20th week, with the threat of fresh industrial action.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) at the site in Swansea are being asked if they want to take more action amid continued concerns over pandemic-related health and safety measures.

DVLA insists it is making sure its offices are safe for staff, saying it is following official advice on dealing with coronavirus.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has written to the agency saying the workers’ resolve is “stronger than ever”, adding that his members should not be blamed about delays for DVLA services as a result of the dispute.

He said: “I understand the frustrations people have about the delays to some DVLA services but I want to make it clear that the blame for this lies not with our members concerned about their safety but with DVLA management and the Government.

“In June, our negotiating team had been in discussions with DVLA management to secure a just settlement that would satisfactorily bring the dispute to an end.

“We were then told that this agreement had been pulled by a member of the Government at the eleventh hour.

“Agreements negotiated in good faith shouldn’t be vetoed by Government ministers without justification or explanation. It’s clear that this decision to veto the deal worsened the delays and the backlogs.

Covid-19 case rates in UK nations
(PA Graphics)

“The backdrop to these latest developments is the continued increase in infection rates across Wales.

“Covid case rates in Wales are now at their highest since the second peak in January and Swansea has the highest infection rates in the whole country, at 500 per 100,000 people.

“This context is important because this dispute is, after all, about a fundamental right: the right for staff to be safe at their place of work.

“After everything they’ve been through, our members remain resolute and determined to secure the settlement they deserve.”

A DVLA spokesperson said the safety of its staff is “paramount”.

“Those staff who can carry out their role from home are continuing to so, while those who cannot carry out their usual duties from home are working on site.

“All through the pandemic, 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.”