Serious disruption of vehicle testing operations at authorised testing facilities (ATFs) is on the cards with DVSA workers planning to escalate their industrial action from this week with a series of one day strikes.

The industrial action centres around a long running dispute at DVSA over pay and conditions linked to the introduction of New Generation Testing (NGT)  and, more generally, to flexible working. The decision to escalate strike action comes after Prospect members at DVSA staged a three hour strike last week. The action will see a series of one day strikes from this Friday (27 November).

Helen Stevens, Prospect negotiator, told that the action has been prompted by  DVSA’s refusal to return to the negotiating table and claims by some workers that their attempts to work to rule had been met with DVSA management bullying. Stevens said line managers have written to members threatening to stop their pay if they started work to rule action. Other staff were told that they were not required to report for work.

Stevens said: "Prospect has rarely experienced an employer behaving in such an inflammatory way. They are doing everything possible to bully, intimidate and harass their own staff into compliance, a shameful way of doing business."

She added: “As a result of this action we have given DVSA notice there will be further strike action every Friday until they return to the negotiating table.”

She also warned that DVSA’s use of road enforcement staff to replace striking staff last week was detrimental to safety.

Stevens also criticised DVSA’s unwillingness to negotiate. “DVSA have been hiding from the problem for the last 15 months. We have been trying to resolve the situation through negotiation but they refuse to come back to the table and so we are forced to take this action. Industrial relations are now at an all-time low.”

Stephen Smith, president of the ATF Operators Association expressed frustration at the ongoing dispute and criticised DVSA for failing to keep ATF operators informed of the situation.

“This is the first I have heard of further strike action,” he told Motor Transport, adding: “This really ups the stakes. Regular strikes will be hugely disruptive to our members who are the ones who will have to deal with customers at the coalface. Yet we are not even involved in the negotiations or kept informed of what is happening despite the fact we are the people financing this.”

DVSA response

In response DVSA chief executive, Paul Satoor, said: “Staff signed up to a new standard employment contract in April 2014 in exchange for a lump-sum payment and a three year-pay deal. This was agreed with the trade unions, and applied to all staff in DfT and its agencies.

"The pay deal included transitional arrangements that came to an end on 1 November 2015.  After several months of negotiations DVSA developed a number of flexible working options to enable us to provide more convenient and flexible services to our customers.

"We have also recently offered these options on a voluntary basis to operational staff . It is disappointing that the trade unions have now chosen to oppose some  aspects of the 2014 contract and the optional flexible working options."

Satoor said DVSA remained open for negotiation but said Prospect was currently imposing conditions on talks which DVSA is unable to meet.

“We are doing everything we can to minimise any disruption to customers; this includes following standard policies to ensure that staff meet the obligations of their contracts,” he said.