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Arguments for socialism :: Workers
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PCS members at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) are balloting from 12 October to 10 November on whether to continue their campaign of industrial action over Covid safety.
The original 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 is now necessary to reballot.
Covid cases at DVLA continue to rise, with almost 900 reported since September 2020 at the last count. This amounts so far to almost one in six of the total workforce. This shows that the problem at DVLA is real and we can expect things to get worse as winter approaches.
The vaccination programme has reduced hospital admissions and deaths but not prevented them entirely. Admissions and deaths will increase as the infection rate in society climbs.
This is not the time to bring more staff back into the workplace. Yet that is exactly what DVLA has been doing and intends to pursue in the weeks to come.
The advice from the Welsh Government is to work from home if possible, and it is obviously possible for staff who have previously been working from home to continue to do so. Yet they are being made to come back to the workplace. This is irresponsible and makes no sense.
This dispute can be won with a strong lead from the top.
DVLA members have shown great resilience and determination so far. They have already voted for industrial action in one statutory ballot and two consultative ballots. They have endorsed proposals for industrial action in every Zoom meeting when called on to do so. Most importantly, they have responded in large numbers to every call for industrial action.
But all these efforts must be made to count, and to do that a 'yes' vote is needed again.
The Broad Left Network, the socialist group in PCS to which Socialist Party members belong, has supported the action of members at DVLA throughout the dispute, and urged the leadership of PCS to escalate the action, to put maximum pressure on management and ministers.
Unfortunately, the Left Unity leadership of PCS has dragged its 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 to prevent management forcing people back into the workplace.
There is a growing awareness among members that if the strike mandate is renewed, the full collective strength of the 3,500 members at DVLA must be mobilised to overcome management and government resistance and to win the dispute.
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Article dated 13 October 2021
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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