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Friday, 28 November 2014

DVLA staff in Carlisle mount strike

CARLISLE’S Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) office remained closed today as staff mounted a 24-hour strike.

The action is part of an ongoing national dispute by members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) over office closures and job losses.

Michelle Muir, a PCS representative at the DVLA in Carlisle, said it was hoped that the day of action had been timed to cause as much disruption as possible.

She said that she apologised if people had wasted journeys to the centre but added that members were fighting to protect the service. “We wanted to cause maximum disruption for the employers but we understand how it affects the public.

“It isn’t just for our jobs – we are fiercely defensive of the service. We see what they are going to lose – so losing it for one day is nothing.

“We are always going to get people that hate us for striking, it’s the way it goes.”

Wendy Bartlett travelled from Gilsland to renew her car tax and said: “It is due at the end of the year and I need to reregister it. We will call back on Monday.”

Gordon Thompson, of Maryport, said he had contacted the DVLA to see if the office would be open today. He added: “They said it was open.”

One woman, who would not give her name, said she had travelled 40 miles from Whitehaven to tax her disabled daughter’s car. She added: “I am unbelievably disappointed. I phoned the DVLA line. It said it was open on December 28 and so I travelled through to Carlisle. I don’t know what I’m going to do – I can’t tax it anywhere else.”

The industrial action was taking place at 39 local and 10 enforcement offices in England, Scotland and Wales.

The PCS union is campaigning against planned office closures arguing it signals the end of a “highly prized” face-to-face service to motorists. The union has delivered a 72,000-name petition opposing the closures, to the Department for Transport.

A union spokesman said: “We’re very concerned aboutthe lack of awareness among people that the offices are set to close.”

Mark Serwotka, the PCS general secretary, added: “As well as losing a high quality public service and more than 1,000 jobs at a time of high unemployment, we believe these closures will lead to increased vehicle tax evasion and fraud.”

DVLA said it could not guarantee a business-as-usual service because of the strike and asked people to avoid travelling to any DVLA office today.

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