Driving examiners began a two-day strike today, Thursday, against bosses’ plans at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to increase their working day to fit in more tests.
The workers’ PCS union says this will effectively mean a pay cut – and will affect road safety.
Striker Ray Webb told Socialist Worker, “This is the best supported strike we’ve had.”
PCS members represents 1,600 DVSA workers at some 350 locations across Britain.
Ray was on the picket line at Mill Hill Test Centre, north London.
He told Socialist Worker, “The longer hours will mean a pay cut, just because there’s more work but no more pay.”
He added, “If you’re tired, and there’s headlights coming at you, and you’re trying to keep an eye on the person being tested next to you, it’s easy to see how you could make mistakes.”
The DVSA has admitted that it is understaffed by about 350 posts. Some waiting lists for driving tests are as long as eight weeks.
But instead of taking on more people, bosses want to force staff to work harder.
Ray said, “Sickness levels are high at the minute. And for a lot of people that’s to do with stress.”
Understaffing also means the action is more effective. The strike will be followed by a work to rule.
“They rely on our goodwill to get everything done on time. But if we work to rule, it means a lot of tests won’t get done,” Ray said.
The PCS said driving examiners are facing intimidation from managers who are trying to force the changes through.
Ray said, “There’s been bullying from lower management trying to get people to sign up to the new terms and conditions.
“They’re threatening people with docking pay and sending people home.”
But strikers say the pressure from management is what has made the strike so strong.
One striker said, “I’ve been here 27 years, and this is the strongest strike I’ve ever seen.”
Darren Gerrard, an examiner from Bredbury, Greater Manchester, agreed. He said, “It’s strong. We’ve covered the whole of the North West.
“There’s a picket line at every centre I’ve been to today. But the whole country is really strong.”
He added, “I’ve never seen anything like this from driving examiners. They’re not the most militant bunch.
“We’ve been bullied, harassed, threatened with disciplinary action for sticking to work to rule. People have just had enough.”