PCS members have launched strike action after DVLA’s refusal to take workplace safety seriously has resulted in the most Covid infections of any UK workplace, reports Yonas Makoni
PCS members working for the DVLA in Swansea began strike action on Tuesday and will stay on strike until Friday 9 April in a dispute over coronavirus health and safety issues at the workplace. The office in Swansea saw a massive outbreak of infections amongst its workers at the end of last year which led to the closure of the contact centre.
PCS were at the time calling for the centre to return to levels of staffing seen in the first lockdown, where between 250-500 workers would be in the offices at any one time. Despite this, numbers of staff during the latest lockdown were reported to be up to 2,500. According to the BBC, DVLA sites in the city have seen more than 600 Covid cases, the most cases at any workplace.
An ITV broadcast revealed that workers’ complaints about their desks being less than two metres apart were repeatedly ignored by the company and that there was a culture of bullying and intimidation against employees who spoke out. Staff reported being afraid to attend union meetings for fear of repercussions.
Under pressure from PCS, DVLA has now agreed to some concessions, such as more support for self-isolating workers and the removal of over 300 desks in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. However, the union has reported that there has been no immediate action taken to reduce the number of workers on-site. They argue that a strong strike action now will help force management’s hand to take the necessary measures to improve workplace safety.
The lack of care taken by DVLA to ensure their workers can carry out their duties in a safe environment has forced them to take matters into their own hands. Striking will show other employers that they have a choice: take Covid in the workplace seriously or deal with industrial action.
There will not be physical picket lines due to Covid, but PCS held an online strike rally on Tuesday. Further information, including details of the strike fund, can be found on the PCS website. Messages of support should be sent to: [email protected].
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