DVLA staff union threatens strike over more than 500 cases in Swansea

Industrial action at the DVLA head office has moved a step closer following an informal vote over continuing safety fears, union leaders have warned.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said a straw poll of its members at the site in Swansea showed that anger and frustration had reached “boiling point”, with nine out of 10 saying they would support strikes.

Officials said workers felt senior management and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had “scant regard” for their safety after hundreds of cases of coronavirus were reported, and one member of staff died.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said there were now only six cases of the virus at the site, stressing that “rigorous protocols” were in place.

The union has been pressing for skeleton staffing levels in a bid to reduce the risk to workers.

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PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: “ DVLA senior management and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps have abjectly failed in their responsibility to keep our members safe at DVLA in Swansea.

“The anger and fear DVLA staff have for their safety was on stark display and the fact they voted by over 90% in a straw poll for strike action tells its own story.

“PCS is now highly likely to move to a statutory strike ballot at the DVLA because it is clear senior management and Grant Shapps will not listen to strong and reasoned arguments on staff safety.”

At the end of last months it was stated that there had been 11 cases of the virus at the DVLA offices between the start of the initial lockdown in March and September. Since then there had been a massive 535 cases.

Also last month the chief executive of the DVLA admitted to MPs on the Transport Select Committee who were holding an urgent review of cases there that she had only been to the offices “six or seven times” since September.

A DfT spokesman said: “We care deeply about the safety of all DVLA staff, which is why rigorous protocols are in place and all requirements and recommendations from Public Health Wales and Swansea Council have been implemented.

“The PCS’s demands will not help drastically reduce cases, given the low number of cases among DVLA staff currently – however, they will create unnecessary anxiety for onsite staff conducting crucial work.

“The measures in place are under constant review, and we are prepared to work constructively with PCS on potential extra measures to provide further reassurance for staff.”

The DfT said the union poll only involved around 500 people out of a total of 6,000 staff, adding that environment health experts at Swansea Council had confirmed that the DVLA had implemented all the required measures asked of it.

Of the six cases of coronavirus among DVLA staff, it said three of them had already been working from home.

The DfT said the DVLA had already significantly reduced numbers on site, adding that further cuts would have little impact on Covid-19 case numbers, given their current low level, but would impact on the delivery of vital public services.

WalesOnline – Swansea