Hundreds of workers at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have voted to take industrial action over safety concerns around Covid.
Staff at the agency’s Swansea offices have backed strike action after hundreds of employees contracted the virus.
The Public and Commercial Services union said that the agency’s management had failed to keep employees safe and demanded that changes were implemented to protect staff or they would take strike action.
Members of the union backed strikes by 71.6 per cent on a turnout of 50 per cent. The union says it will now seek to meet with management before deciding its next step.
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Why are DVLA staff threatening to strike?
The PCS union says staff at the DVLA’s Swansea HQ are being forced to work in unsafe conditions after a Covid outbreak was declared at the centre in December. Three hundred and fifty-two cases were reported at the site in the space of four months and a total of more than 500 cases recorded at DVLA sites around the city.
More than 6,000 people normally work at the site and the union says that more than 2,000 staff have been going to the office every day, despite the size of the outbreak. The union says it wants to see the number of staff in the office reduced to hundreds and vulnerable staff either allowed to work from home or be offered paid leave.
There have also been accusations that proper safety measures have not been taken to protect staff.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This result is a damning indictment on DVLA management in their abject failure to keep staff safe.
"Our members have sent a loud and clear message that they are not safe at their place of work."
A DVLA spokesperson said: “DVLA has followed and implemented Welsh government guidance at every single point throughout the pandemic having consistently worked with Public Health Wales, Environmental Health and Swansea Bay Health Board to introduce a wide range of safety measures. This has enabled DVLA staff to continue to deliver essential services to the public right across the UK in a COVID-19 secure way.
“Any industrial action is likely to have a detrimental impact on motorists as we begin the first stages of the roadmap out of lockdown and the UK vaccination rollout programme is in full swing. We hope that PCS will consider this impact when deciding how it wishes to proceed.
“Cases of COVID-19 among DVLA staff remain low. Currently there are no cases among staff on-site, and just 2 cases in staff who are working from home, out of a workforce of more than 6,000.”
How will a DVLA strike affect drivers?
The DVLA is responsible for overseeing many of the day-to-day operations that affect drivers and handles around one million calls to its Swansea HQ every month. A strike among staff could possibly lead to delays in those services, which have already been affected by reduced staffing.
Among the key matters it handles are vehicle ownership and logbooks, including issuing a new V5C when a vehicle changes hands or a replacement if the original is lost or stolen. According to its own data, the DVLA issues 18 million logbooks a year.
It also handles all aspects of driving licences, including applications for provisional driving licences, licence renewal and replacements for a lost or stolen licence, issuing around 12m licences a year.
The first lockdown saw a significant reduction in the agency’s operations. The DVLA has previously warned that it is currently taking six to eight weeks to process documents but many motorists have complained on social media of waiting months for paperwork to be processed. In an effort to ease pressure it has been encouraging drivers to use online services for matters such as renewing licences, changing addresses and informing the DVLA that you’ve sold a vehicle.