Belfast Telegraph

Drivers urged to turn up today despite strike hitting MoT centres

Nipsa general Secretary Alison Millar
Nipsa general Secretary Alison Millar
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

Union members at MoT centres across Northern Ireland will take to the picket line today as part of wider Civil Service action.

However, the Government is urging drivers to turn up at MoT centres if they have an appointment.

The strike action comes after it emerged that drivers were facing waits of up to 47 days for a test after an increase of around 15,000 MoT applications in the first three months of this year.

As part of today's industrial action there will be rallies in Belfast and Londonderry at 10.30am in an attempt to secure better pay and work conditions.

The strike will last for 24 hours and the majority of picket lines will begin at 7am today.

Trade union Nipsa's members voted 68.5% in favour of strike action last month, with 85.9% of members in favour of taking industrial action short of a strike.

However, Carmel Gates, deputy general secretary of Nipsa, revealed on The Nolan Show yesterday that there was just a 50% turnout in the ballot.

Nipsa general Secretary Alison Millar explained that the strike action is not just confined to MoT centre workers.

"Our members across the Civil Service have been called out on strike action across a range of areas, for example, the tribunals service, jobs and benefits offices, meat inspectors and administration staff," she said. "It's wide-ranging industrial action. The members in the MoT centres were called out on strike, so therefore our expectation is that there will be picket lines at most, if not all of the country's MoT centres."

MoT staff are normally exempt from taking part in strike action, but have been called in to push for their demands.

Many drivers have been left potentially at risk of breaking the law by driving without a valid vehicle test certificate due to being unable to secure an MoT appointment because of the backlog.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has previously confirmed that there would be no leniency for those drivers who had been unable to secure a test in time.

A DfI spokesperson said it is working to minimise any potential disruption.

"Our advice is that customers with appointments should attend as scheduled," the spokesperson said.

"We will be monitoring the situation very closely and if things change, we will contact customers with further advice."

In the department's latest attempt to tackle the MoT backlog, it will make Sunday and bank holiday appointments available in August, after opening a number of centres on Sundays in June. "A further 9,000 appointments on Sundays and bank holidays in August will be made available, along with 1,000 additional tests per day in September," said a spokesperson for the DfI.

"However, we continue to have a significant number of customers failing to attend their MoT test and we therefore encourage customers to either attend their pre-booked appointments or cancel them to allow others to make use of this appointment." The department revealed this month that over 2,000 people failed to turn up for MoT tests in June.

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