Staff at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency have intensified their strike action over coronavirus safety arrangements at the organisation’s Swansea campus.
Members of the PCS union are staging a six-day strike this week, building on four days of industrial action last week.
The union said around 800,000 items of mail sent to the agency have gone unprocessed so far, with the number growing by 60,000 a day. A recorded message on the agency’s customer service phone line warns callers that the strike is impacting operations.
At the beginning of last week, PCS said it had agreed a deal to end the strike with DVLA management and Department of Transport permanent secretary Bernadette Kelly, only for the agreement to be withdrawn “at the eleventh hour without any explanation”.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the union strongly suspects ministers at DfT have “interfered” with the progress the union has been making “to make some kind of ideological stand”.
“PCS is fully prepared for months of strike action, and we urge the government to rethink its position," he said.
PCS has been fiercely critical of DVLA’s requirement for around 2,000 staff, roughly a third of its workforce, to work at its Swansea campus during the lockdown.
It says that with around 600 cases of coronavirus reported among staff since September, DVLA has notched up the highest number of cases of any UK workplace. Union members voted to strike over the issue in March.
A DVLA spokesperson said the organisation had been negotiating in good faith with PCS with the aim of finding a workable solution to the dispute.
“It’s disappointing to see the Public and Commercial Services Union 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, just as restrictions are starting to ease,” they said.
“The safety of our staff is paramount and since the beginning of the year we have implemented weekly Covid testing for everyone, hired more than 30 new cleaners to maintain hygiene standards and installed thermal imaging cameras to carry out temperature checks on people entering the building. We have also removed 300 desks from our headquarters and utilised space in a newly-leased building to further assist with social distancing measures.
“As these measures have been implemented, 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.
“Millions of people right across the UK are relying on essential DVLA services and PCS’s demands will cause significant and unnecessary disruption to families and businesses, all at a time when they are most needed.”
This article was updated at 17:10 on 8 June 2021 to include a more detailed response from DVLA