The union has been in last-ditch talks with bosses in the DVLA [Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency] about the Swansea complex, where our members have voted for strikes over safety concerns. Vastly more workers than necessary have been compelled to come into work, and there have been multiple Covid outbreaks.
We held a members’ meeting on 18 March, and there is determination to go ahead with action. Many activists are pushing for strikes to be called as soon as possible. Therefore the union is going for strike action from 6 to 9 April 2021 and action short of strike action from 10 April 2021 onwards.
We are also planning a tactical experiment as part of any strike. On strike days, workers will also notify management that they are refusing unsafe work under Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act. The union will then pursue a legal claim under Section 44. If that claim is successful it could lead to the reinstatement of the wages workers lose by striking. No union has ever attempted such a claim before, to our knowledge. Whether the claim is successful or not, action is necessary and our members are prepared to strike.
We’ve also named strikes involving our members in passport control at Heathrow, for a week, beginning on 1 April. That’s an escalation of the action we already planned, consisting of a work-to-rule and overtime ban. The strike will also coincide with action by Unite members, who are striking against the imposition of worse contracts via “fire and rehire”. The issue in our members’ dispute is the imposition of a new roster. It’s unworkable, and has led to huge queues at passport control, despite the lower numbers of passengers and flights.
Members in two courts, in London and Liverpool, have also voted to strike over safety concerns. It’s possible they’ll extract concessions from the employer, such as a commitment to enforcing distancing in courts, without taking action. Also in the Ministry of Justice, strikes by outsourced worker members employed by the contractor OCS are highly likely.
In the Department for Work and Pensions, there are now indications that bosses want more staff back in the physical workplace from April. If they attempt to push that, a dispute is almost inevitable.
• John Moloney is assistant general secretary of the civil service workers’ union PCS, writing here in a personal capacity