Strong union lead needed to stop DVLA Covid spread
Dave Warren, Swansea and West Wales Socialist Party
535 Covid cases have been reported at the DVLA in Swansea, including one death. The vast bulk of the Covid-19 cases have happened more recently in the second wave as staff are made to attend work in person.
While many are working from home, most of the operational staff in the lower grades are having to attend work because management say outdated IT systems cannot be adapted for homeworking. Attending work involves using buses in many cases.
As in any large office building, everyone knows how easily even ordinary viruses like the cold can spread, but Covid puts a new and deadly slant on an old problem. There is even more risk now with the new variants of Covid-19, which spread even faster, and the lack of proper ventilation in workplaces. Call-centre work poses a real risk of spreading Covid-19 as workers are speaking all day for their jobs.
The overriding ethos of DVLA is to maintain output and productivity and their attitude towards everything else including health and safety is coloured by this.
The safety of workers cannot be entrusted to DVLA or any other government Department or Agency. PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka says he has intervened with ministers regarding DVLA, but more is needed. PCS must give a lead now and take collective action to get workers out of an unsafe environment.
Broad Left Network
The Broad Left Network is the socialist group inside PCS and our immediate concerns are the employment and workplace issues that face members, particularly health and safety at this time.
During this pandemic, we say:
- All staff should work from home unless they are key workers and their work can only be delivered from the workplace. The definition of a key worker must be agreed with the union, not just imposed by management
- Special leave with pay for all those who cannot work from home and are not key workers
- All sick leave related to Covid-19 to be written off, including conditions related to long Covid
- Additional compensation for extra expenses incurred through working at home, eg fuel bills
The current Left Unity-led national executive committee has failed to organise members to respond collectively to achieve a national collective agreement from the employer. From the start of the outbreak, members meetings should have been called to make it clear that they have a legal right to refuse to work in an unsafe environment.
Workers have the right not to go into a work area where they face serious and imminent danger and should immediately proceed to a place of safety.
Union safety reps should assist individuals in expressing and reporting fears about the serious and imminent danger they face and why they need to invoke their rights to proceed to a place of safety and stay at home.
There are protection and legal rights under both Section 8 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
The union must throw its full weight behind members' rights to be safe, tackle DVLA management to negotiate what needs to be done to protect the whole workforce from the risk of contracting Covid-19, and take a lead in organising members to act collectively if management fails to respond.
Members working together with a lead from the top of PCS, we can keep members and the wider community safe during this pandemic.
PCS Broad Left Network election candidates - vote for the following
President: Lloyd Marion: (BEIS)
Vice-presidents: Brittle Fiona: (Scot Gov), Brown Sarah: (Met Police), Semple Dave: (DWP)
National Executive Committee:
Bartlett Dave: MOJ
Borland Rebecca: Home Office
Brittle Fiona: Scot Gov
Brown Alex: Health
Brown Sarah: Met Police
Denman Kevin Met Police
Dennis Alan DSG
Foxton Gill: DfE
Francis Sue BEIS
Guinnane Paul: DfE
Heemskerk Rachel: DWP
Lloyd Marion: BEIS
Lowry Tom: DWP
Parker Nick BEIS
Rees Dave DWP
Ritchie Rob: Met Police
Semple Dave DWP
Suter Paul DWP
Tweedale Saorsa-Amatheia DWP
Williams Katrine DWP
Worswick Craig: DWP
Young Colin DfE
In The Socialist 3 February 2021:
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
What we think
The Communist Manifesto