DVLA workers in Swansea to strike over Covid safety fearson March 11, 2021 at 7:39 pm

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A union claims DVLA’s Swansea headquarters has seen the “worst Covid workplace outbreak in the UK”.

DVLA offices

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Hundreds of workers at the DVLA have voted for industrial action over Covid health and safety concerns.

The office in Swansea has seen more than 500 Covid cases since September in what a union described as “the worst Covid workplace outbreak” in the UK.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) backed strikes by 71.6% on a turnout of 50%.

A DVLA spokesman said it had followed Welsh Government guidance at “every single point throughout the pandemic”.

A coronavirus outbreak was declared at the centre in the Clase area of Swansea in December after 352 cases in the space of four months.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in January that UK government officials had been “working flat-out” at the DVLA’s 16 storey HQ.

The UK’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said it was “shameful” workers were having to strike because they felt “unsafe”.

More than 6,000 people work at the site and the PCS union said more than 2,000 staff have been going into the workplace every day, despite the scale of the outbreak.

“This result is a damning indictment on DVLA management in their abject failure to keep staff safe,” said PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.

“Our members have sent a loud and clear message that they are not safe at their place of work.

“The strength of feeling amongst staff comes as no surprise, given the management’s disregard for the safety of their workers.

“Our members have been forced into this position and industrial action will take place unless management immediately implements all necessary changes to ensure staff are safe at work.”

Covid-19 test

image copyrightReuters

The union will seek to meet with management of the DVLA – the UK government-run Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency – before deciding its next move.

PCS said it wants to see the numbers on site reduced to hundreds – and vulnerable people sent home, to either work from home of have special paid leave.

The DVLA said it had “consistently worked with” Public Health Wales, Environmental Health and Swansea Bay University Health Board to introduce a wide range of safety measures.

“This has enabled DVLA staff to continue to deliver essential services to the public right across the UK in a Covid-19 secure way.” added a spokesman.

“Any industrial action is likely to have a detrimental impact on motorists as we begin the first stages of the road map out of lockdown and the UK vaccination rollout programme is in full swing.

“We hope that PCS will consider this impact when deciding how it wishes to proceed.

“Cases of Covid-19 among DVLA staff remain low, and currently there are just five positive cases, including those working from home, out of a workforce of more than 6,000.”

Labour’s shadow transport secretary in Westminster has urged the UK government to “sort out this mess”.

“It is shameful that staff are having to strike because of Tory ministers’ failure to keep them safe from Covid in a government building,” said Jim McMahon.

“The transport secretary has failed to explain why he ignored warnings about this, and how a government agency appears to have become the site of the largest workplace outbreak of the virus.

“He must act immediately to sort out this mess of his own creation.”

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