28 August 2021

Mark Serwotka's open letter to DVLA chief executive

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has written to Julie Lennard, chief executive officer of the DVLA, urging her to work with PCS to resolve the dispute.
DVLA open letter

Dear Julie

As this dispute enters its 20th week, and with our members’ resolve stronger than ever, I want to set out our position whilst also providing you with a response to your latest message to DVLA staff.

I understand the frustrations people have about the delays to some DVLA services but I want to make it clear that the blame for this lies not with our members concerned about their safety but with DVLA management and the government.

In June, our negotiating team had been in discussions with DVLA management to secure a just settlement that would satisfactorily bring the dispute to an end. We were then told that this agreement had been pulled by a member of the government at the eleventh hour, as we heard in a Parliamentary hearing last month. Agreements negotiated in good faith shouldn’t be vetoed by government ministers without justification or explanation. It’s clear that this decision to veto the deal worsened the delays and the backlogs.

Similarly, we wholly reject the insinuation from DVLA management that PCS is to blame for the delays in applications from key workers and the vulnerable. We’ve been clear, and remain clear, the DVLA should be prioritising these applications, as they did at the beginning of the pandemic. It’s clear this hasn’t happened and the opportunity to avoid these unnecessary delays was scuppered in June when the deal was vetoed.

The backdrop to these latest developments is the continued increase in infection rates across Wales. Covid case rates in Wales are now at their highest since the second peak in January and Swansea has the highest infection rates in the whole country, at 500 per 100,000 people.

This context is important because this dispute is, after all, about a fundamental right: the right for staff to be safe at their place of work. Given the worrying numbers above, it’s no surprise that infection rates on the DVLA site are rising and currently stand at 23, with a further 19 suspected cases. This brings the total number of cases to 698 and our members remain extremely concerned about management’s disregard for their safety.

This makes the plans announced in your message to staff regarding the opening of a new site for Drivers Medical applications in Bristol all the more reckless, with the city’s covid rate in the top 10% of the country. This flies in the face of government guidance, which is to allow as many people to work from home as possible. It’s troubling that as cases rise and members grow more worried for their safety, this appears to be your priority.

By subjecting us to delay tactics and shifting the blame of backlogs onto committed members of staff, your department is failing to take the concerns of your own workers seriously. That’s why our members won’t let up and we’re currently running a consultative ballot as we seek to keep up the pressure in the next phase of this dispute.

After everything they’ve been through, our members remain resolute and determined to secure the settlement they deserve. I urge you to work with us and the Department for Transport to ensure this dispute can be brought to an end.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Serwotka