DVLA workers stay strong (John Moloney's column)

Submitted by martin on 10 August, 2021 - 4:33 Author: John Moloney
DVLA sign

A month-long selective strike (2-31 August) at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) complex in Swansea has begun as we move towards the expiry of the current ballot mandate. The dispute was triggered by management’s insistence that far higher numbers of workers than we deemed safe continued to come into work during the pandemic, but the campaign has taken on a wider focus on workplace safety and an authoritarian style of management more generally. The new ballot will begin in the coming months, and we’ll campaign to ensure we exceed the required thresholds.

Outsourced workers in the Royal Parks struck on 30 July, and a workers’ assembly on the day of the strike agreed further walkouts from 16-30 August. There’ll now be negotiations with the employer there this week [9-13 Aug], which is a step forward, but we are far off anything which will mean the strike being suspended.

Outsourced workers at the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will also look to strike again in September, once Parliament resumes, if their demands are not met. Their dispute focuses on pay, working conditions, and annual leave entitlement.

Another outsourced contractor, Mitie, has completely backed off under membership and general union pressure from its plans for restructuring pay. However, they still haven’t committed formally not to use “fire and rehire” threats again in future. Therefore on behalf of the union I have written to the company asking them to renounce such tactics.

In my last column I discussed plans for convening building-wide safety committees at sites where multiple civil service departments have offices. We want our reps to work together in a joined up way to formulate common demands. We’ll demand the employer recognises and negotiates with those committees, but even where we don’t win that, those bodies will still be important for coordination. Some have already been set up, and we’ve got a target of 20 sites where we want to see committees created. We want local branches to discuss the idea, and hopefully be convinced of the approach, rather than it simply being a top-down directive from the leadership.

The National Executive Committee of the union recently agreed a proposal I made for drawing up demands for radical changes in leave policy within the civil service. There are various entitlements for different types of leave – maternity, paternity, parental, domestic, childcare, bereavement, and so on – none particularly generous, all riddled with management discretion. Also the rules tend to be about limiting leave and not about addressing the the reasons why people need to take leave. So we’ve had members who’ve lost children in childbirth and have been treated terribly. All this has to stop. We want members to feed into the campaign to formulate what its precise demands should be. It’s a matter of workplace dignity.

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

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