Driving examiners at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency are set to take strike action next week over plans to increase the number of tests they are expected to undertake.
The PCS union announced the planned two-day stoppage, which will take place from Monday, in response to plans to increase the number of tests each examiner can do in day from seven to eight.
A ballot over industrial action passed last month, and the union says the action is now going ahead due to a "breakdown in trust" with the DVSA.
The agency said the new schedules would help deal with backlogs caused by the coronavirus pandemic by delivering an additional 15,000 to 20,000 tests every month. It currently has 1,890 driving examiners – not all of whom are union members.
PCS said fatigue levels are already high amongst staff, and they warn the new regime could increase the likelihood of accidents and lead to more failed tests.
General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “DVSA need to listen to their staff and scrap their eight-test-a-day regime
“Driving examiners are already working flat out and showing signs of fatigue on seven tests. It would be unsafe and from the evidence of pilot studies, is likely to lead to more failed tests.
“Tackling the Covid backlog is important and recruiting more staff and offering voluntary overtime would help safely deal with the issue.
“DVSA know they are taking short cuts and we will continue industrial action until we reach a just settlement.”
DVSA chief executive Loveday Ryder has said it is “disappointing” that PCS has chosen to take its current course of action.
“The country has endured so much as a result of Covid-19 and we have been in regular discussion with PCS on how we can support the recovery of our services,” she said.
“Safely reducing driving test waiting times will contribute to the national recovery effort and we are taking steps to provide thousands of learner drivers with the vital driving tests they need to access employment, education, health and social activities.
“As part of our plans to increase the number of tests available, we have trialled examiners carrying out an additional test per day, during their normal working hours. The safety and wellbeing of our customers and colleagues is paramount. We continue to work with colleagues and PCS on these proposed changes."
DVSA added there is “no contractual entitlement” for examiners to have a seven-test day.
“This is a proposed change to how the work is organised,” DVSA said. “It is reasonable for employers to request that staff work differently within their contracted hours.”