The civil service’s biggest union has said a majority of staff required to work on-site at the DVLA’s Swansea headquarters took part the in first day of the ongoing strike over Covid safety measures.
PCS said more than 1,400 staff members supported Tuesday’s strike – the first day of a four-day walkout in protest at the agency’s requirements for around 2,000 staff to work at the agency’s offices during the current lockdown.
The union has been calling for a much smaller proportion of DVLA’s 6,000-strong workforce in the city to be required to work on-site amid concerns about safety measures following a spike in positive tests among staff since September last year. More than 600 staff are now said to have tested positive for Covid-19, compared with very low numbers during 2020's first pandemic lockdown, when fewer staff were required to work from their offices.
The protest follows a ballot month that found 71.6% of members in favour of strike action. Turnout was 50.3%, just over the simple majority of members now required for strike action to be legitimate.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the strike was a “last resort”. The union acknowledged last week that intensive talks with DVLA management had made some progress but said DVLA’s failure to reduce the number of staff working on site meant the walkout had to proceed.
PCS is now calling on transport secretary Grant Shapps to intervene at Swansea to reduce staffing levels.
DVLA has consistently argued that it has followed and implemented Welsh government guidance “at every single point throughout the pandemic” as it worked to deliver essential services.
The agency is currently warning people seeking driving licenses and other service users to expect delays with paper applications as a result of the strike.
Earlier this year chief executive Julie Lennard told members of parliament’s Transport Select Committee the spike in Covid-19 cases seen among staff since September was a reflection of what was happening in the community, rather than a reflection of on-site safety issues.