The Workers Party of Britain deplores the continuing imposition of unsafe work conditions at the DVLA offices in Swansea and welcomes the overwhelming endorsement of strike action to bring senior management and the Department of Transport to their senses.
Back in the first lockdown, the government’s vehicle licensing offices in Swansea managed to function with only 250 workers on site, with other staff working from home. But now, for no apparent reason other than the management toadying to the government’s ‘back to work’ obsession, the DVLA suddenly finds it imperative to have over 2,000 staff packed into its Swansea offices.
The shocking consequence of this boneheaded policy is there for all to see: since September, 535 workers have fallen ill with covid-19 and one has died. And yet, rather than abandon the failed policy, management has stepped up its efforts to bully everyone into turning up to work.
Workers report that people who develop covid symptoms are still ‘encouraged’ to return to work. Vulnerable workers have had their requests to work from home denied. Covid-related absences have been counted against sick leave. And anyone who goes sick for more than ten days is given a warning.
The DVLA’s workers are obliged to work in often cramped conditions which make a mockery of social distancing. One survey reported by the Guardian revealed that nearly 70% are less than two metres from those seated in front of them and just over 20% are less than two metres from colleagues seated next to them.
It is clear that this criminally irresponsible management regime is not just down to some overzealous middle-management suit, but is driven from the top. Just before the plague hit the DVLA, transport minister Grant Shapps was telling clerical workers to go back to their offices, assuring them: “It is now safe to go back to work.”
Now workers are rightly taking matters into their own hands. In a straw poll conducted on zoom, 90% of workers voted in favour of strike action, making it very likely that the PCS will move to a statutory ballot.
The Workers Party of Britain welcomes this spirited response and stands ready to offer whatever support it can.