Driving examiners back strike action over new test schedule

Union warns over additional workload but agency says new schedule is needed to tackle massive backlog of practical tests

Driver examiners have said that they are prepared to go on strike over plans to make them carry out more tests.

Examiners working for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) voted heavily in favour to support industrial action up to and including strikes in a developing argument over working conditions.

The DVSA has proposed increasing the number of tests examiners carry out from seven to eight per day as it tries to tackle a massive backlog caused by the Covid pandemic.

It is already trialling the new schedule and plans to extend the trial in coming weeks but the Public and Commercial Services union says it is concerned about the impact of the heavier workload on its members and the safety of the public.

Announcing the results of the ballot in which 92% of its members who work as driving examiners or their line managers backed action, the union said: “We have concerns around both the wellbeing of members and the health and safety implications to the public of introducing an additional test to an already time pressured schedule.”

“PCS remains open to talks with DVSA management, if the imposition of the eight-test schedule is suspended before the strike date.”

The DVSA faces a massive backlog of tests after hundreds of thousands were cancelled due to lockdown and drivers are currently facing waits of between 14 and 24 weeks to sit their test, with more than 500,000 learners with tests already booked.

The agency says that by increasing the number of tests examiners carry out each day, it could offer up to 20,000 more appointments per month.

Responding to the PCS ballot, DVSA chief executive Loveday Ryder said: "The country has endured so much as a result of COVID-19 and we have been in regular discussion with Public and Commercial Services Union on how we can support the recovery of our services, so it is disappointing that the PCS has chosen to take this course of action.

"Safely reducing driving test waiting times will contribute to the national recovery effort and we are taking steps to provide thousands of learner drivers with the vital driving tests they need to access employment, education, health and social activities.

"As part of our plans to increase the number of tests available, we have trialled examiners carrying out an additional test per day, during their normal working hours. The safety and wellbeing of our customers and colleagues is paramount. We continue to work with colleagues and PCS on these proposed changes."

Other efforts to cut the backlog of tests have included a recruitment drive for new examiners as well as asking qualified office staff to resume examiner duties and offering more weekend and out-of-hours tests.