Operational staff at the DVLA in Swansea are staging a four-day strike this week over claims they are ‘scared to go to work’ because of Covid-19 concerns.
The industrial action, organised by the PCS union and continuing until Friday, follows reports of more than 500 cases of the virus at its Swansea HQ since September 2020.
Health and safety
The union claimed that there had been no “immediate moves” by the DVLA to reduce the number of staff required to work at the site, although it had removed more than 300 desks; told more than 300 to work from home including pregnant women and those who live with vulnerable people; and made a commitment on how to proceed with talks on health and safety at the site.
“We are convinced that the DVLA is able to give more than it is willing to at this stage and we believe that a strong show of strike action [this] week will help tip the balance to getting management to reduce numbers in the medium term and make the site safe,” said PCS.
The union’s DVLA branch secretary Sarah Evans told BBC Wales Breakfast: “[Staff] are being forced to take this action for the sake of not just their own health and safety, but the safety of their family and their work colleagues.
“They don’t feel the DVLA are taking their health and safety seriously.”
The DVLA has also been accused of suppressing a report into home working at the agency, which the union believes contains recommendations about its capacity for home working.
“We have yet to be given an adequate reason why operational staff at the DVLA have been made to come into the workplace when operational staff elsewhere across the civil service, who process the same sensitive information and are part of the same ‘critical national infrastructure,’ have been enabled to work safely from home,” said the PCS. “We are yet to be given evidence that the DVLA has put in motion plans to develop the systems and safeguards necessary to make this happen.”
A spokesperson for the DVLA said that more than 2,200 staff are working from home and the only staff required to attend the workplace were those who could not do their jobs from home – including processing applications from key workers who rely on their cars.
“The safety of our staff is paramount, and we have continuously adapted our measures over the past year and will continue to do so,” the spokesperson said. “There is currently not a single member of staff in the 10 day isolation period, our of a workforce of more than 6,000.
“DVLA has ensured that it has followed 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 to continue to deliver essential services right across the UK in a Covid-secure way.”