30 November 2021

DVSA: ‘Our ballot result stopped management in their tracks’

DVSA rep Caroline Oliver speaks to Activate about their successful campaign to see off plans to impose an increase in the number of daily driving tests.

DVSA members organised themselves to successfully see off plans to impose an increase in the number of driving tests they were expected to conduct daily. A huge vote for strike action, with a turnout of 80%, brought management to the table and a deal was struck that members supported in a ballot.

DVSA South West Branch rep Caroline Oliver – a driving examiner based in Plymouth – spoke to Activate about their campaign.

“I joined PCS when I started at the DVSA in 2004, then became very active in about 2018. I am currently the branch organiser. I became a rep because the very poor management skills of a manager meant newer members of staff were not being managed fairly.

This recent campaign came about because our job is to conduct seven driving tests to a tight time schedule, but DVSA wanted to add another test to our day, and to try to shorten the length of a test slot, for no extra pay. This would lead full-timers into going into overtime and any member that was part time was expected to change their contracted hours. The DVSA were coming direct to members and the change of contracts was not going through PCS. 

As reps we held weekly meetings on Teams or Zoom with people attending throughout the country. Getting together regularly was key.

The union updated members via our ‘Roadsense’ email bulletin and on social media. This included regularly encouraging members to update their personal contact details on PCS Digital.

Reps were also asked to hold local online meetings, which I did in the South West. I went through my membership list on PCS Digital and sent invites through our internal email, making sure the original email was addressed to me and all the members were blind copied in. 

We were also able to use WhatsApp and Facebook groups that were set up for members during the Covid lockdowns. Our membership is spread far and wide across branches and the country so the WhatsApp group just for reps was also a fantastic help.

I helped with phone-banking, too, which was interesting as you get to speak directly with members. A few of us took this on and managed to contact a lot of members in only a few days. As the issue at the root of the campaign is such a change to our working day, members were very keen to participate and get their voices heard. We didn’t have a great deal to do to put the argument across, as it was ridiculous what members were being expected to do. 

We were able to maintain momentum as management were not listening and were dictating the changes without proper negotiations through PCS.

Many new members have joined because of the campaign. In the London and South East area, we had around 100 new members in the space of a month.

The results of the strike ballot – with 92% in favour on an 80% turnout – was amazing. I was on leave that day in an area with very poor phone signal. Eventually I got the news and promptly stayed in the pub and celebrated with a pint of cider!

PCS members have voted to accept the proposal from senior reps to force DVSA back into meaningful negotiations. The threat of adding an extra test to our day is on hold. 

The members feelings towards the DVSA are at a very low point. They do not trust our present management; over the years the agency has put productivity over staff wellbeing. 

We feel we are in a very good position. DVSA management were stopped in their tracks by the strength shown by the ballot result. Only time will tell if they will change their ways.”