THOUSANDS of staff working at the DVLA will be balloted for strike action over continuing Covid health and safety concerns, the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) has announced.
The ballot will open on 18th February and close on March 11th, and could see spring walkouts.
The DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority) has been forcing over 2,000 staff members to go into the workplace every day, despite the fact that over 500 Covid cases have been reported at the Swansea site since September last year.
The union has repeatedly called for a huge reduction in footfall at DVLA, pointing out that, during the first lockdown, only 250 people were in the workplace carrying out essential duties.
One staff member sadly died recently after a positive Covid test. Only this week, according to Geraint Davies MP at Prime Minister’s Question time on Wednesday, up to 90 staff members were sent home after the NHS app sent out warnings to dozens of DVLA workers.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘It is a scandal that DVLA have insisted over 2,000 staff members come into work every day, despite having the biggest outbreak of Covid in an office workplace within the UK.
‘DVLA senior management led by CEO Julie Lennard have shown a cruel indifference to safety of their staff by repeatedly attacking the union and rubbishing testimony where workers have expressed their real fear at going into work.
‘Balloting our members for strike action shows the anger workers feel at their treatment, and PCS will also support them in any individual Section 44 claims they make to keep themselves safe.
‘Meanwhile, our MP Mr Davies has said that thousands were now working at the site “facing a more infectious and widespread disease.
‘ “Yesterday 90 people were sent home following the latest outbreak of coronavirus just before the weekend,” he told the Commons.
‘ “Given that BT are on standby to instal home secure technology to allow home working, will the Prime Minister meet with me and the union ahead of the strike ballot next week so that workplace numbers can be reduced until the vaccine is rolled out to keep people safe and avoid an unnecessary strike?”
‘The Prime Minister responded that “to the best of my knowledge” out of the workforce of 6,000 there were “thankfully” only nine cases of Covid now, and three of those individuals were currently working from home.
‘Johnson added that the DVLA was pursuing a “working from home” strategy.
‘He added the UK government was “rolling out lateral flow tests” but said the “long term solution” was vaccinating people.’
- PCS mythbuster number 2 – public sector wages increase are still better than private sector
The PCS union said: ‘In the second in a series of myth-busting articles as part of the PCS pay campaign, we look at the often cited claim that wage increases in the public sector are still better than in the private sector.
‘This claim has been used by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as a justification for the public sector pay freeze he is set to confirm in the 3rd March budget. Analysis by the TUC has shown the freeze will effectively cut £1.7 billion from key workers’ pay in England, and hit struggling high streets and firms dependent on consumer spending.
‘As a union we represent members in the public and commercial sectors, many of whom are all suffering from chronically low pay. We campaign against a race to the bottom which pits workers in the private sector against their public sector counterparts in an equalisation of poverty pay.
‘Hannah Slaughter, economist at the independent think-tank the Resolution Foundation, said in December last year that a decade of pay freezes and caps after the 2008 financial crisis has reduced any premium public sector workers had over those in the private sector to zero overall.’
‘We have now entered a fresh phase of pay turmoil – with millions of private sector workers facing job losses, furlough-induced pay cuts or pay freezes,’ Slaughter said.
The government has justified the coming public sector pay freeze on the basis of the pay premium these workers will experience as a result of the pandemic.
But this is a very poor description of the impact of the policy – with the freeze largely falling on those already experiencing pay penalties relative to the private sector.
- Our parliamentary petition for fair pay reached 100,000 signatures, and was the beginning of the next stage of our campaign to win fair pay for members
The PCS union said: ‘We held a successful first fair pay day on 29th January, and further events are planned for 26th February and 31st March.
‘Sign the TUC petition which calls for fair pay. Get active in the PCS pay campaign by signing up to be a union advocate and joining our fair pay day activities.’
- OCS security contractor staff working in the courts of law vote for strike action
Over 300 court security staff have voted for strike action at the OCS contractor over the Living Wage. The contracted-out workers at the HMCTS have been offered only a 1.5 per cent pay rise which is the equivalent of 13p an hour.
Most OCS staff on the contract are currently paid between £8.72 to £8.85. OCS recently boasted about making £20 million in Covid-related sales since the start of the pandemic.
The union is also demanding sick pay from day one, 30 days annual leave per year for each contract staff member and a one-off bonus in recognition of the hard work amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
PCS members on the contract have worked tirelessly since March to keep courts operational in unprecedented and challenging times.
Now 91.1% of them have voted in favour of strike action on a 67.8% turnout.
On this issue, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘This is a fantastic result, and is a testament to our members determination to win pay justice from a greedy private contractor.
‘A company that boasts about making £20m in Covid-related sales and then offers a miserly 13p an hour extra to court security staff should hang their heads in shame.
‘Unless OCS bosses give our members a just settlement, then strike action will follow and PCS will back security staff all the way.’
And in a separate dispute, court and tribunal staff in HMCTS are at the same time being balloted for industrial action over Covid safety concerns.