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17 November 2021

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DVLA ballot turnout falls short of threshold - action on health and safety still vital

Swansea DVLA workers on strike in July, photo Swansea Trades Council

Swansea DVLA workers on strike in July, photo Swansea Trades Council   (Click to enlarge)

Dave Warren, PCS member and retired DVLA branch committee

PCS members at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have voted by 79% to continue their campaign of industrial action over Covid safety, but unfortunately the turnout was 39.6%, short of the 50% threshold required under the anti-union laws.

The original statutory ballot was held in March, with a prolonged campaign of targeted strikes in progress since April. With the legal mandate having expired after six months under the anti-union legislation, it was necessary to reballot.

Understandably, members and reps are disappointed with the result of the ballot, particularly with the fact that 60% did not vote. However the result must be understood in context. There has been a ferocious campaign from senior management aided by the media to undermine the confidence of the workforce. For example, they have been made scapegoats for the backlogs in the processing of medical licences which existed long before the start of the dispute.

While this anti-workforce propaganda may have impacted on the ballot result, the Left Unity leadership of PCS nationally cannot escape responsibility. They have dragged their feet from the start, only balloting for action three months after the mass Covid outbreak last December, refusing to escalate the action to include all members and refusing to collectively use Section 44 legislation to prevent management forcing people back into the workplace. Their strategy of selective or targeted action was well supported by members, but had the disadvantage of being insufficient to force management into a settlement and reducing large numbers of members as spectators to their own dispute for long periods.

These concerns were voiced by Socialist Party and Broad Left Network members in the union during the course of the dispute. It was clear, especially after Tory ministers intervened to torpedo talks between the union and DVLA management, that the strikes needed to be escalated to include all members on the site in sustained action.

DVLA members have shown tremendous resilience and determination and around 1,100 members voted to continue the action after nine months of the dispute. This is a significant statement that members are still prepared to fight, and management would be foolish to take this result as a green light for further attacks on the workforce.

In the meantime, the health and safety problems remain and are getting worse. Covid cases at DVLA continue to rise with the running total as of 11 November at 1,232 cases since the start of the pandemic, and a further 89 in the first eleven days of November alone. This amounts to almost one-in-five of the workforce so far.

This dispute is not over. The collective use of Section 44 remains an option to prevent workers from being forced to work in unsafe conditions. Nor should a further statutory ballot be ruled out.

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In The Socialist 17 November 2021:


Cuts drag NHS to brink

NHS workers must take action now to save our NHS

Outsourced Barts health workers in strike ballot for a pay rise

Health and care staff shortages worsened by Tory vaccine sacking threat

Fund the fight for socialism


London MPs' second home swindle while workers and students struggle

Tory sleaze scandal continues, an ex-workers' MP responds

University bosses' pay piles up while workers are forced to strike


Youth fight for well-paid green jobs and socialist change

Sunak's climate finance agenda typifies capitalism's COP26 failure


China: Bureaucracy grapples with new crises


Ten years on - where has Podemos's radicalism gone?

Belarus refugees - caught between a rock and a hard place

Workplace news

S Wales Stagecoach bus drivers win 10.50 an hour

DVLA ballot turnout falls short of threshold

Striking Scunthorpe steel scaffs up the ante

Leeds cab drivers protest against taxi rank move

Fresh strikes on East Midlands Railway

An appeal to trade union members to stand as anti-cuts candidates

Clarks workers fight 'fire-and-rehire' pay cut

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St Mungo's report fails to address bullying and victimisation of workers


Resisting evictions in east London

Leeds solidarity protest says stop Sudan coup

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Birmingham People's Budget

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Related links:


triangleDVLA: Workers ballot on further strike action

triangleBallot majority essential to continue DVLA strike action

triangleEscalation needed

triangleDVLA workers suspend strike for talks

trianglePCS elections: increased support for Broad Left Network

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triangleUnions must fight for Covid workplace safety

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Article dated 17 November 2021

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Sheffield Just Eat strikers step up action and hold mass rally, photo by Alistair Tice

Sheffield Just Eat strikers step up action and hold mass rally: Over 100 trade unionists and students in Sheffield rallied in support of the Just Eat delivery drivers on their 31st day of targeted strike action against company pay cuts. Photo by Alistair Tice

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