DVLA Staff Afraid to go to Work After COVID Outbreak
Staff at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) contact centre in Swansea are afraid to go to work because of a coronavirus outbreak. BBC Wales reported that, since the pandemic started, 500 employees at the centre have contracted COVID-19.
A COVID outbreak was declared at the contact centre in December after 352 coronavirus cases were reported in just four months. The numbers were described as a scandal by the PCS union which has urged ministers to intervene.
One DVLA employee told the BBC, "There are certain elements within management who are trying to bend the rules and regulations," adding that close contacts of people who have tested positive are not being made to self-isolate at home. The way the offices are laid out make it difficult for staff to comply with social distancing. Also, because of archaic systems at the DVLA, home working is not always possible.
The worker said, "The atmosphere sucks, people are scared. I have heard of some people walking out."
Around 6,000 DVLA staff are based in Swansea, although they are currently operating at much reduced capacity because of the pandemic.
Government Concerned About the Situation at the DVLA
Concerns about the case numbers has been repeatedly voiced by Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford. Wellbeing Minister, Eluned Morgan, said that the Welsh Government had been keeping a close watch on the situation at the Swansea offices and that they had been putting pressure on the DVLA to remedy the situation.
She said that the decision to introduce tougher coronavirus regulations for workplaces in Wales was made partly because of the situation at the DVLA.
Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said the government was concerned about reports from the PCS that the DVLA wasn’t following all of the regulations. If the agency was found to be in breach of the rules, there would be questions for the management to answer.
A spokesman for the DVLA said they had been working closely with the union, environmental health staff and Public Health Wales to ensure its offices are COVID safe. The measures included opening an additional site in Swansea.
They said that while some employees have been able to work from home, the nature of some roles meant other staff are required to work in the office.
Delays Possibly Including The Sales Of DVLA Number Plates
The reduction in staff numbers because of the pandemic has led to DVLA being unable to cope with the demand for crucial documents. Some people have had to wait months for documents such as replacement licenses, log books, and personalised number plate paperwork.
A Durham man told the BBC, "I've been waiting nearly eight weeks for paperwork relating to putting a number plate on retention in order to change my car. The DVLA has literally nothing to say other than wait. They couldn't even tell me how far behind I am in the queue. It's bonkers."
There has been a recent boom in the sales of personalised number plates, but the situation at the contact office in Swansea means there could be long delay when ordering plates from the DVLA.
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