DVSA staff to walk out over 'reckless' plan to clear test backlog

Driver services recovery programme to cut down waiting times creates “significant safety risks”, PCS says
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Staff at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency will stage a four-day walkout next week in a dispute over its efforts to cut down driving-test backlogs.

Members of the PCS union who work at DVSA will strike from 8 to 11 February over the driver services recovery programme, the union has confirmed.

The programme – which the union says creates “significant safety risks” for test candidates and examiners – aims to reduce the backlog to a national average of seven weeks by the end of March. As of October, learner drivers had to wait an average of 18.8 weeks for a test.

It requires test centres to deliver an additional 150,000 tests on top of their normal workloads.

The “politically driven” push, which is being spearheaded by transport secretary Mark Harper, also represents an erosion of staff members’ terms and conditions, according to PCS.

In a blog post last October, DVSA’s operational performance and delivery manager, John Selby, said that in recent weeks, the agency had asked “all eligible managers and administrative staff back on the front line to carry out driving tests full time”.

In an effort to increase capacity for extra tests, the agency has also been asking driving examiners to carry out tests outside of regular hours, including at weekends and on public holidays; buying back annual leave from examiners; and encouraging recently retired examiners back to work.

These measures have created around 40,000 extra car test slots a month since April 2021, he said.

But the union said the programme “fails to address the root causes of the backlog”.

PCS had threatened to strike over an earlier effort to increase testing capacity in late 2021 by forcing examiners to carry out eight tests a day rather than seven. The union called off the action after an eleventh-hour agreement to drop the requirement and to  “rebuild trust” with staff.

However, staff at the agency have staged industrial action multiple times over the last couple of years as part of PCS's civil service-wide action on pay and working conditions.

In its latest announcement, PCS said it had not reached an “acceptable agreement” with the agency through dispute resolution negotiations.

Its general secretary, Mark Serwotka, accused DVSA management of being “reckless” and “prioritising business need over the health, safety and welfare of our members whilst attempting to attack their terms and conditions”.

"The actions taken by the agency show a total disregard for our members upon whom they rely to keep the agency operating,” he said.

"Our members want to support a reduction in the driving test waiting times, whilst maintaining high standards and the integrity of the services they deliver, but are not prepared to do so at detrimental cost to their health and safety nor their terms and conditions.

"This strike action is avoidable and DVSA must now act to table a proposal that adequately addresses the concerns raised and meets the PCS demands."

DVSA chief executive Loveday Ryder said: “It is disappointing that strike action by PCS members will go ahead, impacting the services we offer our customers.

“Learners expect a seven-day-per-week service, and, as a publicly funded body, DVSA wants to provide that.

“Driving test candidates should attend their test as usual, unless they are contacted directly.”

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