Paul Williams was invited to speak at a meeting hosted by People Before Profit in Swansea about the Covid outbreak in the DVLA.
“Thanks for arranging this meeting and I bring solidarity greetings from PCS to you all.
For those who may not know a vast majority of PCS members across the nations are currently working from home, that includes in my own area of DVSA where Driving Examiner members have been sent home, but as you may know obviously cannot work from home. That is testament to the work our PCS reps and officials have done in making sure our members are protected, and are safe.
However, there are a few areas where that has not been the case specifically in the Courts and of course in DVLA. And it shouldn’t be forgotten by the way, that our members don’t simply work for DVLA they are ultimately Government employees.
At the very beginning of this pandemic nearly all of the members in DVLA bar a few hundred were sent home, whether they could work from home or not. Some 10 months later we have at least 2398 working, according to official figures, working on the sites. Throughout this time Branch reps have worked tirelessly to get members back home. Instead, they have been met with obstinacy from DVLA and being told the workplaces are COVID – secure.
Well how COVID secure is it when as a result, we have seen the biggest outbreak of COVID in an office environment ever recorded, and now have the tragic death of a member of staff? There is nothing COVID secure about pushing hundreds of people together. One death is one too many and yet we still have the line from the management that the buildings are COVID secure? The same management by the way who openly admit that they have not been in the buildings very regularly. In the Chief Execs case averaged at about once every 3 weeks.
All of this could have been avoided by simply sending staff home and agreeing with the unions how staff can be brought back safely. Instead, we have seen the pig headedness of Government Ministers and senior leaders in the DVLA putting their income stream before the health and safety of staff and our members. We want to be clear the safest and most COVID secure environment at this present time is in your home.
That I think sums up the mentality and utter ruthlessness of this Government and its employers.
The DfT AND DVLA met with us, they told us, to quote ‘they remain confident that the DVLA workplaces remain COVID secure., and that they could see no valid argument that sending people home would reduce the COVID cases given the measures they have in place”. So make of that what you will.
But lets also have a look at some of the other measures that they don’t tell you about. We have seen also the results of the bullying and harassment of members;
- Where members have self-isolated because of contracting COVID, if they are not back on day 1 after the isolation period the whole period of self-isolation is counted as sickness.
- A member barely able to walk from their car to work who was in because they were scared they would hit their sick trigger point.
- Currently there are 17 cases of our members being told their asthma isn’t severe enough to score a point on a risk assessment which means they can work from home. Indeed, one manager in another case stated that the member did not have chronic asthma because they didn’t use their asthma pump every day.
- Cleaners and facilities staff not provided with full PPE equipment
- Managers copying Facebook contributions from the PCS Facebook page and passing it on to other line managers in order to discipline that member.
- And today people being asked to go back in to work because the risk assessment is now being reassessed taking into account their waist size!! That really is taking an inch to pinch a yard.
And the list goes on.
In light of this PCS has held two members meetings with hundreds of our members attending on Zoom, over 500 at this week’s meeting. Given the refusal to move on sending our members back home and the fact that we put out demands to the DfT/DVLA about reducing numbers from the thousands to the low hundreds i.e. we do recognize there is an element of critical workers but not the thousands we see.
We therefore have had no choice, other than to act.
We have been met with complete refusal, in fact the offer made to us this week is worse than what we had been offered before.
On that basis PCS has now made clear that we are in a trade dispute.
- We will be setting up a phone bank for members to ring to seek individual advice on the use of Section 44, and to add to the Section 44 issue I believe Mark Serwotka our general secretary in this week’s members meeting went to the boundaries of what we can say officially to members, short of instructing them to walk out. We will also seek to take employment tribunals if any member suffers detriment as a result of them using their rights under Section 44.
- We will also be holding a members meeting and will ballot our members for industrial action – in the last meeting we held a survey online whereby 88% voted with over 90% indicating they were in favour of industrial action.
- We will use our Parliamentary contacts, we will get across what is happening in DVLA using the press and social media, and we will expose a Government who clearly put income streams above the health and safety of our members, of in short putting Profit Before People.
To end I want to be very clear, we will protect our members, you can all be assured of that.”
Paul Williams, DfT PCS President, personal capacity.
Paul is standing for the NEC as part of the Democracy Alliance. Click on the image for more information.