DVLA bosses back off for now (John Moloney's column)

Submitted by AWL on 18 May, 2021 - 6:05 Author: John Moloney
DVLA Swansea

Bosses at the Swansea Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), where our members have struck twice against a lack of workplace safety, threatened to increase the number of workers on site even further from 17 May. Under the threat of a week-long strike starting the 17th, though, they have backed off.

They have this week to reach a deal with us; if they don’t, then we have served notice for another strike for the entire week beginning Monday 24 May. Previously our strikes have only involved those workers who were being made to work from the physical workplace. This time it’ll involve everyone, those working at home too.

We’ve received positive legal advice in our parallel campaign in DVLA concerning its sick trigger point, which is more punitive than other part of Department for Transport and disproportionately impacts women workers. We want to start legal action as soon as possible.

In the Department for Work and Pensions, indicative ballots on workplace action over Covid safety are due back on Monday 24 May. The department has upped the ante by demanding everyone must return to the workplace at least one day per week. We have to resist that kind of compulsion. The return to the workplace must be voluntary and under strict safety conditions, overseen by elected union reps.

The ongoing dangers are shown already by a mass Covid outbreak at a large job centre in the north east. They made it through the last spike without a significant level of infections, but as things are opening up now the virus is spreading again.

PCS has pledged £5,000 to support the United Voices of the World union (UVW)’s legal costs in their case around the discriminatory impact of outsourcing. I’m pushing for further financial support on top of that. We’re also integrating UVW members in Royal Parks, who work as outsourced cleaners, into the PCS as part of dual-card arrangements between our unions. They are facing mass staffing cuts later this year. If the outsourcing company, who are following the orders of the Royal Parks, don’t back off from this we’ll ballot our new members for strikes and support any actin with full strike pay.

I have asked our representative on the London and South East TUC to raise with other unions that should be a joint campaign to get Sadiq Khan to begin insourcing work. The board of Transport for London, for example, is chaired by Mr Khan; he can bring work in-house by just raising a finger. There should be no outsourcing by TfL or any of its subsidiary companies.

Mr Khan and other local Labour politicians say they’re pro-union, but they need to back that up with action. They need to implement union policies, and ensure unions have full access to workplaces and the right to organise properly. Unions should also demand as much non-compliance with anti-union legislation as possible.

I want to push this approach with the Scottish and Welsh governments. The Scottish National Party claims to be pro-union, and the Welsh government is Labour-led. We’ll be making demands of them: we don’t just want a union notice case in the corner of government offices, we want those governments to place themselves and their power on the side of workers and unions.

• John Moloney is assistant general secretary of the civil service workers’ union PCS, writing here in a personal capacity

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