Thousands of learner drivers could see their tests cancelled as examiners stage a two-day strike starting on the day the new driving test is introduced.
Members of the Public and Commercial Service (PCS) union in England, Scotland and Wales voted to walk out on December 4 and 5 over changes to the test and their working conditions.
The action, involving up to 2,000 examiners puts thousands of driving tests at risk of cancellation. It will also see examiners work to rule from November 23, which could affect even more tests.
The PCS balloted members in September over changes to examiners’ contracts which the union said left them facing up to an additional 7.5 hours work per week for no extra pay. Eighty-four per cent of members backed strike action.
The union has also since argued that the changes to the test are potentially dangerous and called for the new test to be suspended, citing “incidents” on lessons carried out under the new rules.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The actions of the Department for Transport in trying to force detrimental changes onto our members has backfired.
“Our members whose jobs are about ensuring our roads are safe for drivers and pedestrians have voted overwhelmingly to demonstrate that these changes are unacceptable.
“Ministers can avoid this strike action by instructing their officials in DVSA to scrap the plans and re-enter serious negotiations with PCS. If this strike goes ahead the blame lies squarely with the government.”
‘Shameful disregard for learners’
Gareth Llewellyn, DVSA chief executive, has called the action shameful and said the new-style test had the backing of thousands of instructors, examiners and drivers’ groups.
He said: “The fact PCS is trying to undermine the launch of the new test by calling for strike action shows a shameful disregard for both road safety and learner drivers who have worked so hard to be ready to take their test.
“The new driving test has been designed to make sure new drivers have the skills they need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving.
“During the last three years the changes – which are welcomed by most examiners, road safety experts, disability groups and instructors – have been developed and trialled extensively with a wide range of our staff, learners and other organisations.
“I met with PCS on 2 November 2017 and they turned down my offer of mediation, although our offer still stands.”
The PCS’s comments on the safety of the test come after thousands of instructors signed a petition opposing a new manoeuvre which requires drivers to pull up on the right-hand side of the road and park. They argue that the move is potentially dangerous and in contravention of the Highway Code.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which oversees driving tests, says that any candidate with a test booked for December 4 or 5 will be contacted and offered the choice of rescheduling their test or turning up for their test as planned but running the risk of it being cancelled.