21 July 2021

Ministers exposed as having scuppered deal to end DVLA strike at select committee

Transport minister Baroness Vere admitted to the parliamentary transport select committee that she interfered to stop a comprehensive deal to end DVLA dispute from being put in place. 

In a day of testimony which included PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka, PCS DVLA Branch Chair Sarah Evans, Baroness Vere and DVLA CEO Julie Lennard, it was clear that the deal to end the dispute was scuppered by ministerial interference.   

Baroness Vere first claimed it was a vague set of “proposals” and admitted that she refused to sign off the deal between PCS and DVLA senior management, bizarrely claiming she was protecting taxpayers' money.  

She also claimed that Mr Serwotka had previously argued he “could go further” than the deal in principle, implying that the union wasn’t ready to settle the dispute which is entirely untrue.   

Committee member Ben Bradshaw MP took the minister to task by asking: “The document we have seen is called ‘proposed draft agreement.’ Did you see it minister?”  

Baroness Vere said: “No.”   

Mr Bradshaw went on to point out that recognition and respite for staff was not uncommon across government departments during Covid.   

He said: “Many other departments have done that for their staff and none has been so badly affected by a Covid outbreak as the DVLA in Swansea.”  

“You say you will be prepared to consider these things in the future so why on earth would you not do it now – you could end this dispute.... by signing up to the document that your own departmental officials recommended to you.”  

Baroness Vere repeated that it was a dispute about Covid safety.   

Committee chair Huw Merriman MP expressed frustration at the claim the deal was just a set of proposals, saying: “I don’t accept it was just a series of negotiations. I put it to you that there was an agreement reached in principle but it was not palatable for the wider politics.”   

He also said that given the clear ministerial interference, he put it to Baroness Vere: “Now you’ve taken control because you’ve said we’re not willing to sign off on that [deal] and therefore the industrial action is on you.”   

Responding to the day’s events, Mr Serwotka said: "It is disgraceful for the transport minister Baroness Vere to grossly misrepresent the deal that was agreed in principle to resolve the DVLA dispute in June.   

“It was a deal that had a number of different aspects including on Covid safety, working from home and a package of recognition for staff working through the pandemic.   

“With the deal being taken off the table, it means the safety measures which had also been agreed in principle have not been implemented by DVLA.   

“It is important to point out that the recognition and respite clauses contained within the deal were put forward by management, not the union.  

“The entire deal was then withdrawn without explanation which is why industrial action continues.   

"Instead of trying to rewrite history and slander PCS, ministers need to put that deal back on the table so this industrial dispute can come to an end."  

He added that the admission by the minister revealed an ideological opposition to trade unions improving the lot of their members through industrial action.