Labour backs driving examiners in 48-hour strike in row over new tests
The DVSA said the new test offered a more realistic assessment of driving skills.
Labour has joined calls for a new driving test to be suspended, as examiners launched a 48-hour strike expected to lead to cancellations.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union mounted picket lines outside test centres across the country amid claims that examiners are being told to work longer, harder and for no extra pay because of the new tests.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) disputes the claims.
Shadow rail minister Rachael Maskell said: “It is appalling that DVSA senior managers and ministers have allowed this dispute to escalate, meaning thousands of driving tests are having to be cancelled.
“Driving examiners have told me they have serious and genuine concerns about the safety of the new test and we support the PCS union’s call for it to be suspended to allow for further analysis.
“Instead of stoking disputes like this and demonising unions who raise concerns, the next Labour government will work with staff, their representatives and employers to protect working conditions while improving standards.”
DVSA director of people, communications and engagement Adrian Long said: “PCS’s desperate claim that changes to the driving test will cause examiners to work longer and harder is simply not true.
“In the last year we’ve recruited more than 320 extra driving examiners – reducing waiting times to an average of seven weeks across the country.
“It’s also significantly reduced the number of times we ask examiners to work at other centres – 1.5 days on average in the last four months. This means that we are not asking examiners to travel an extra day each week as PCS claim.
“DVSA has met with PCS more than 40 times to try to solve this dispute but, despite our best efforts – including an offer of mediation – PCS has stuck to its unreasonable demands. The possibility of constructive discussions has been made even harder by their strike action.”
The union said it was pleased with support for the strike, adding that tests were being cancelled or rescheduled.
General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “PCS members in the DVSA have tried to negotiate around their concerns but the door has been slammed shut in their face.
“They now feel they have no alternative but to take industrial action to bring home to the public how damaging the DVSA proposals are.”
As #PCS #DVSA members start a 2-day strike today over attacks on their T&Cs which could see them paid 5 days' money for 6 days' work and against the badly-designed new driving test. Read what they're looking for to resolve the dispute https://t.co/5tDk04sLG0 #DVSAdispute pic.twitter.com/Frn7y9yBXm— PCS Union (@pcs_union) December 4, 2017
Ian McIntosh, chief executive Red Driving School, said: “Although we appreciate that there are some concerns around certain changes, such as the parking on the opposite side of the road manoeuvre, the DVSA has planned these changes with the help of expert organisations over a lengthy period of time and conducted extensive research.
“In addition, over 3,000 learner tests during a trial period were carried out without incident. We feel that it is sensible that the UK’s driving test is aligned to practical, real-world driving experiences.”
Changing the format of the driving test means we can spend more time assessing new drivers on the types of roads where most fatal collisions happen.https://t.co/XbXudoV3Oj#drivingtestchanges pic.twitter.com/WSxmguZLYQ— Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (@DVSAgovuk) December 3, 2017
“We sympathise heavily with all of the students that have paid to take their test during the proposed strike period. The risk of their test being cancelled is an added anxiety for them during a time when they are already feeling stressed and nervous.
“Candidates may now have to wait a long time for a new test date and may well end up incurring extra lesson costs so that they are ready to pass.
“We hope that this can be resolved without strike action, so that those learning do not incur unnecessary extra costs and apprehension.”