There have been 110 cases of Covid reported by DVLA staff in Swansea this week, a union has claimed, as cases of the Omicron variant continue to surge across Wales.
The driving agency repeatedly made headlines last year after it faced what was branded the ‘ worst workplace Covid outbreak in the UK ‘, leading to hundreds of workers walking out on strike over workplace safety concerns.
Last November i t was reported how there had been 1,000 cases of Covid involving DVLA staff, although the organisation claimed most of those involved transmission in the community and outside its offices.
There were 35 new cases reported yesterday, claims the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, although it is not known what proportion of the latest cases were caught by DVLA staff either working from home or via community-based transmission. You can read the latest coronavirus updates here.
It has been claimed there are so many cases being reported currently that the automated line where DVLA staff contact the organisation regarding their absences was ‘full-up’ with people saying they would not be in work.
Find out about coronavirus cases in your area:
The driving agency said the figures involving staff reflected those infected in the community generally as workers returned to work duties after Christmas and New Year annual leave.
The DVLA said it had spent more than £5.7m to try to keep staff safe on site and had introduced various new safety measures that included leasing two new buildings.
It has also implemented temperature check stations, perspex screens, as well as regular on-site testing.
A DVLA Spokesperson said: “The number of positive cases at DVLA mirror infection rates in the local community which is to be expected as most of our staff are from the local community.
“The safety of our staff is paramount and we continue to work closely with Public Health Wales along with Swansea Environmental Health and the Health and Safety Executive, who have repeatedly confirmed a high level of compliance with control measures across all of our sites. Staff whose roles mean they don’t have to be on site are working from home and, on any given day, more people are at home than are working on site.
“We have stringent safety measures on site for those staff who deal with customer calls and also open, process and despatch the 60,000 items of mail we receive every day.”
The PCS Union, however, has claimed that the DVLA has suggested abandoning certain safety measures previously agreed upon with it before Christmas, such as a freeze on staff recruitment and increasing the numbers of those working from home. It claimed the suggestion had come in light of Omicron being ‘milder’.
PCS National officer, Andrew Lloyd claimed: “We breathed a sigh of relief as just before Christmas management of the DVLA appeared not to want to repeat the mistakes they made previously. Hearing that these measures may be abandoned because this Omicron strain is milder is deeply worrying.
“Our members have suffered enough, their anxiety levels are ‘through the roof’. If the new measures are not put in place then undoubtedly members may respond as they have before.”
The DVLA has been approached for comment on the union’s claims.
For more stories from where you live, visit InYourArea.