13 September 2021

TUC Congress praises DVLA strikers

PCS members who have been engaged in sustained strike action at the DVLA to make their workplace safe were congratulated by TUC Congress.

PCS President Fran Heathcote called on Congress to support the campaign for a full independent investigation into events at the DVLA, where the employer allowed a mass Covid-19 outbreak to develop, involving more than 700 cases and one death.

In speaking to composite motion 1 today, Fran said: “The situation at DVLA is indicative of the government’s disastrous handling of the pandemic, which has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of workers and millions of Covid-19 infections, which have, and could, lead to serious long-term illness.

“Key workers have been most at risk and most disproportionately detrimentally affected by the pandemic.”

Fran passed on the thanks of our striking DVLA members for the support from across the union movement, including messages of support and donations totalling more than £47,000 to their strike fund.

Fran called for a full investigation into events at the DVLA. She described how transport secretary Grant Shapps continues to refuse to meet PCS and berates the workers describing the strike as pointless.

“It is pointless to him because he does not have to go into a workplace, getting Covid, or long-term conditions or in one case paying the ultimate price. It is not pointless to our members who actually believe only striking kept them safe. It is not pointless to staff fearing another autumn of rising cases over 100,” she said.

She said there should be no compulsory return to workplaces for workers able to work from home and new-technology agreements with employers that enable homeworking wherever possible. She said there should be pay rises for public sector workers in line with the demands tabled by their respective trade unions.

Major failings

The motion also highlighted that the UK has suffered worse health and economic outcomes than most other countries during the pandemic. And that a major reason for these failings is the fact that the UK has been hamstrung by a decade of damaging austerity, disinvestment from public services and deep structural imbalances of wealth and power in the world of work, the economy and wider society, that were decades in the making.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Instead of raiding low-paid workers’ wage packets, the government should think again, tax wealth to fund social care. After all, the pandemic showed on whose shoulders society is built, the true value of labour, who carries us, who keeps us going, and the balance of power can shift.

“This is a moment of opportunity for working people, the task for us as unions is to bring it home.”

Christina McAnea from Unison moved the motion and called for a new deal for working people.

Profound thanks to public sector workers

Congress delegates placed on the record their profound thanks for the bravery and sacrifice of public sector workers. The motion called on the government to assign a national day to remember those who lost their lives and to remember the sacrifices of all workers.

The TUC pledged to campaign for a new post-pandemic plan before the end of 2021, as part of a cross-union action for a New Deal for Workers and profit-free public services.

The open sessions of Congress are being streamed live on the TUC website.

We are posting regular updates in the news section of this website under the tag TUC Congress, and on social media with the hashtag #TUC2021