MPs are told bad decisions by DVLA managers resulted in a “catastrophic” processing backlog of 1.4 million cases.
Decisions made by managers at the DVLA driving licence body have meant a “catastrophic” processing backlog of 1.4 million cases, a union says.
Mark Serwotka, head of the Public and Commercial Services union, said if staff were allowed to work from home the backlog could be reduced.
He told Transport Committee MPs other members of the civil service “were tearing their hair out” at the DVLA.
He said it is a “stain” on the reputation of the civil service.
Mr Serwotka said the DVLA are “refusing to engage in a proper discussion.”
“In 21 years (in this role), I have never encountered the level of incompetence and mismanagement that is on display at the DVLA in Swansea,” Mr Serwotka told the MPs on Wednesday.
“The tragedy of that is not just that public are suffering. Our members many of whom are quite lowly paid and very stressed at work are bearing the brunt of this.”
Mr Serwotka said there had been 643 Covid cases and one fatality at the DVLA during the course of the pandemic and that there are serious risks to staff’s health and safety because of its actions.
Sarah Evans, the DVLA branch chair at PCS, said that staff are worried as they can see cases rising on site, but that they have been told not to complain.
“Our work site is very different because there is a high volume of staff in a small area,” Ms Evans told the committee.
The union want more staff to be able to work from home to be able to allow for better social distancing in the offices and to allow those isolating at home to still continue to be productive, pointing out the other departments had been able to deliver remote working.
“We believe that if the department of work and pensions can deal with three million universal credit claims, if HMRC can deliver furlough scheme, if we have workers in the home office ministry of justice, devolved nations, working from home handling in some cases much more secure data so could the DVLA,” said Mr Serwotka.
“We know there cant be a security issue in the DVLA that’s not the same in the rest of the civil service.
“Weeks and weeks of productivity have been lost by stopping staff working from home,’ said Ms Evans. ‘There’s no doubt at all that we would not be in situation we are in … had we been given the capability.”
Mr Serwotka added that although they believed there was a lack of investment in technology that the union had been told that it was also because the DVLA were concerned about trust and supervision of staff.
The PCS and the DVLA are currently in an industrial dispute that has seen targeted strike action since April where staff in different departments have walked out for a few days at a time.
The PCS say that they had negotiated a deal after months of discussions that would protect the health of workers and provide respite and recognition of what they had done over the last few months. They say that the agreement was withdrawn on 1 June without an explanation.
Julie Lennard, DVLA chief executive, and The Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Minister for Roads, Buses and Places at the Department for Transport are due to give evidence later.