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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

COVID-19 strikes

by New Worker correspondent

FOR THE second time in a month, workers at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) took four days of industrial action over COVID-related safety at their Swansea HQ, which now handles all the UK’s vehicle licenses.

Their union, Public and Commercial Services (PCS), is demanding that management reduces the number of staff coming into the office to work after concerns were raised following several COVID-19 cases last year.

PCS said that despite extensive negotiations, the DVLA still insists more than 2,000 people go into the Swansea office every day.

Mark Serwotka, the union’s general secretary, said: “It is the unreasonable and crass behaviour of DVLA senior management which has led to the latest round of stoppages. “DVLA and ministers need to understand the levels of fear, anger and determination within the workplace and that our union will support staff every step of the way in their fight for a just settlement.”

In response, a DVLA spokesman claimed: “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 staff to continue to deliver essential services to the public right across the UK in a COVID-19 secure way.

Since September 600 workers tested positive for the coronavirus and one died. Despite this, most of the 2,000 workers still have to come into work, sitting just one metre apart. PCS wants a reduction in the capacity by removing over 300 desks together with a revision of risk assessments that have led to a further 300 staff being sent home to work safely from their homes.

Contemplating similar action on a similar issue are staff at Jobcentres, who are to start voting on the possibility of strike action in response to be forced to resume face-to-face interviews after a year of working from home, interviewing by phone.

PCS has deplored the fact that: “Since April 12, DWP has been asking considerably more staff to return to jobcentres to carry out face-to-face interviews with customers. We believe that coronavirus still poses a threat to safety and that to extend services in jobcentres now is unsafe and places staff, their families and customers at risk.”

Justifying the ballot, PCS stated that only “vulnerable” clients should be interviewed face-to-face, and others do not begin “until the vaccine programme is complete and low rates of infection have been sustained for a significant period”.