Covid: DVLA staff in Swansea scared to enter the workplace

Covid: DVLA staff in Swansea scared to enter the workplace

Staff are scared to work at the UK vehicle licensing agency’s contact centre in Swansea where 500 workers have contracted coronavirus since the pandemic began, a union says.

The PCS union has urged ministers to intervene and said the numbers as a “scandal”.

A DVLA spokesperson insisted safety was a priority and it followed guidance to “help keep our offices Covid secure”.

The Welsh Government said it has been “worried about the DVLA for a while”.

Minister Eluned Morgan said the decision to introduce tougher Covid regulations for workplaces in Wales was made, in part, due to the situation at the DVLA.

In December, a coronavirus outbreak was declared at the centre at Swansea Vale in Llansamlet after 352 cases of Covid-19 in the space of four months.

The UK government has been asked to comment.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “It is a scandal that DVLA are not doing more to reduce numbers in the workplace when Covid infections are on the rise.

“Our members are telling us they are scared to enter the workplace for fear of catching Covid 19.

“Minsters must intervene and ensure DVLA are doing their utmost to enable staff to work from home and temporarily cease non-critical services.”

Eluned Morgan told Radio Cymru the Welsh Government has been keeping an eye on the situation at the Swansea offices.

The wellbeing minister said: “We’ve been worried about the DVLA for a while, now. We’ve been putting pressure on them.

“It comes up time and again from the people who represent Swansea, and we’re worried the pressure on people working there hasn’t helped.

“The situation is one of the reasons why we’ve introduced new rules, new legislation, to tighten the restrictions on people at work.”

The DVLA said some staff have been able to work from home “in line with government advice”, though others were required to be in the office due to their roles

“In view of the essential nature of the public services we provide, some operational staff are required to be in the office where their role means they cannot work from home,” said a spokesman.

The DVLA said it has worked closely with Public Health Wales, Swansea council’s environmental health staff and union officials to try to make its buildings Covid safe, including opening an additional site in Swansea.

However there were currently four Covid cases across its estate, with none at its contact centre.

“Before Christmas, when transmission infection rates were extremely high in the local community where most of our staff live, we saw a rise in staff testing positive for Covid,” he said.

Swansea MP Carolyn Harris said, during the first lockdown, she was in “constant contact” with the DVLA due to concerns raised by workers.

“Since Christmas, I’ve not been able to get hold of anyone from the DVLA,” she told BBC Radio Wales’ Sunday Supplement.

“Last night I spent a long time trying to hold of the chief executive.”Some of the stuff that I am now reading, and some of the stuff I’ve had in over the last 24 hours, really worries me.”

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