Yesterday, 6 April, marked the first day of an unprecedented strike at the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) offices in Swansea.
DVLA workers, organised by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, are demanding safe working conditions and a reduction of numbers on site.
Out of 6,000 employees at the Swansea DVLA offices, almost 2,000 still have to attend the site regularly. We are now saying: enough is enough!
Success and support
The strike has been a resounding success so far. We are told that there are 1,400 workers on strike at the moment. We don’t have a precise figure – but reports indicate that the vast majority have downed their tools.
PCS members working from home are currently undertaking action short of strike, and are working to rule. Local union membership is at an all time high.
The car parks seem almost deserted. Amazingly, comrades in the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have refused to drive Royal Mail lorries to the DVLA offices. We have also received numerous donations to our strike fund. The support so far has really been tremendous.
The PCS DVLA van (pictured above) is also going around Swansea, Neath, and Llanelli – where most DVLA workers live – to spread awareness of the strike.
We had an excellent strike rally on Tuesday this week, where a number of speakers – including the strikers and Labour MPs – spoke about the shameful working conditions at the DVLA offices.
Workers in the PCS union at the DVLA offices in Morriston, Swansea, begin 4 days of strike action today against being forced into work unnecessarily during the pandemic.— voice.wales (@voice_wales) April 6, 2021
The strike comes after more than 600 DVLA workers have tested positive for Coronavirus since September. 1/5 pic.twitter.com/gLX6JBQbAu
I will repeat what I said at the meeting: We have tried to speak with management time and time again, but they have refused to listen. They don’t include us in risk assessments. And they are withholding the Deloitte Report from us.
We must speak to them in a language they will understand – that of mass coordinated strike action.
Ticking time bomb
This strike follows on from a very successful ballot campaign. 72% voted for strike action, on a turnout that surpassed the 50% threshold imposed by the Tories.
This is a remarkable result, especially considering that COVID cases have been falling sharply, and that we were not allowed to campaign on site. The turnout and support for strike action was certainly unexpected by the bosses.
Yes, it is true that case numbers are falling. But with the number of workers still on site, our members are sitting on a ticking time bomb.
We are already seeing third waves in countries like France, Germany, and Poland. These countries are seeing record numbers of cases, with increasing numbers of young people ending up in ICUs due to new variants.
Even the most optimistic predictions tell us that it won't be until July that we are all vaccinated. And given how things have been handled by the government over the past year, we have learned to take these forecasts with a large pinch of salt.
We would be ignoring all the lessons of the past 12 months if we thought that a third wave isn’t likely to happen in the UK – especially given the scandalous way that this Tory government has handled the pandemic.
We cannot afford to sleepwalk into disaster again. How many more infections and deaths have to occur before they allow us to work from home?
I have spoken with members with vulnerabilities, who are scared and depressed about being forced back into work; fearful that something may happen to them.
I have spoken with members who live with people who are shielding. Until very recently, they have had to come into work every day, worried that they will pass the disease on to their loved ones.
Every member has a story. And we have a very clear demand: No return to site until it is completely safe.
Contempt for workers
We were told that we can’t work from home, because of ‘data protection’ and ‘IT issues’. Of course, that isn’t an issue for the bosses, who have been working from home since the beginning. And neither is it an issue in other government departments, such as DVSA or HMRC. They do similar jobs to us, and they are working from home.
What we’re being told are mere excuses. And we have had enough of these excuses from management. They simply don’t trust us. They hold us in contempt. And that is not acceptable.
This contempt of the bosses towards our members is a reflection of the contempt that this Tory government has towards all workers – both in the private and public sector. Nurses, who were applauded as heroes, are receiving a miserable 1% pay rise. The rest of the public sector is facing a pay freeze.
Unite and fight!
The strike will last until the end of this week, on Friday 9 April. But it is likely that the struggle for safe working conditions will continue.
We also hope that other workers – who face similar issues in their own offices and factories – will take inspiration from our example and join the fightback. We are happy to link up with other workers and union members, and share our experiences.
A united fightback by the whole labour movement can help transform millions of workers’ lives for the better.
We call on all our readers and supporters to raise this strike in their trade union branches and local Labour parties. Send solidarity messages on social media. And donate to our strike fighting fund:
Account Name: Fighting Fund Levy
A/C No: 20331490
Sort code: 60-83-01
- No return to workplaces until it is completely safe! For an immediate plan to begin working from home, supervised by the union.
- Those workers who are needed on site must receive full protection, including genuine social distancing, lateral flow and COVID tests, and fast-tracked vaccination.
- Full support and solidarity from the whole labour movement! A victory for DVLA workers is a victory for the whole working class!
Hello everyone! We are the DVLA PCS branch, and on 6-9 April we are asking over 3300 of our members in Swansea to go on strike to protect workers' safety. Please show our members some solidarity - RT this and donate to our strike fighting fund! ✊🏿✊🏽✊https://t.co/tqa66ykTj9 pic.twitter.com/0JIAvvK8dT— PCS DVLA Branch (@pcs_dvla) April 1, 2021