THE Minister for Health, Vaughan Gething MS has said that there needs to be a retrospective look at what happened at the DVLA to learn lessons and protect staff.
Focusing on the recent outbreak at the DVLA we asked the Minister what if any would the repercussions for the most Senior manager who had a Duty of Care for the employees and the community at large and would the Minister consider calling for a public inquiry or police investigation into potential breaches of the legislation and the potential that had to further infect people outside of the office environment.
He replied: “I am not in a position to commence a public inquiry I am not also in a position to require the police to investigate what’s happened and of course the DVLA is a UK Government department.
“You will recall that the First Minister has written several times to the responsible minister with the concerns we have had about workplace practices and whether our rules the laws of Wales have been properly applied in the way the DVLA was operating as an employer. In particular about people’s ability to work from home and the distance between people in the workplace and whether that has caused an additional risk.
“I know the trade unions are particularly unhappy about the way the employer has operated. We have had direct conversation between our contact tracing service, Public Health Wales and the DVLA as an employer.
“It does appear there has been some improvement but I fully expect that there will be a need to have a retrospective look at what’s happened both to learn lessons to make sure our staff are properly protected. There is also a point here about accountability for senior managers. That is an issue for responsible UK ministers but I don’t think it is something they can contract out of and I don’t think that this issue is resolved.
Nia Griffith MP for Llanelli said: “What has been going on at the DVLA is nothing short of disgraceful and seems to reflect a completely cavalier attitude of Transport Secretary Grant Schapps and the Conservative UK Government to the health and safety of workers. It is for example completely unbelievable and unacceptable that the processing of ONLINE applications should be taking place on site, when it could so easily be done elsewhere.
“I can assure you that local MPs have repeatedly raised these issues – firstly trying to deal directly with the management at the DVLA , and then increasingly through parliamentary means – questions, questions to the prime minister, debates etc. First Minister Mark Drakeford has also written a very strong letter to Grant Schapps, and the City and County of Swansea has pulled no punches in its inspection report.
“You have probably seen the excruciating evidence sessions when the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee conducted an inquiry and interviewed Senior Management at the DVLA – to hear that a crucial senior manager had only been on site a couple of times in the last six months when THOUSANDS of the staff are on site was absolutely shocking. Their answers were a complete embarrassment – but it seems they can get away with this because clearly Grant Schapps and the Prime Minster are not bearing down on them.
“Local MPs have been meeting regularly with the Trade Union PCS, and the demands PCS have made to DVLA have been very straightforward , namely to return to the situation last Spring in terms of defining urgent and essential work, make IMMEDIATE provision to send home vulnerable workers, and obey the Welsh Government directive to ‘work at home if possible’ . Instead we have seen them ignoring the directive to ‘work at home if possible’ by having online applications processed on site AND whilst files can be provided online to medical staff, the DVLA management are insisting that the junior officers handle the SAME files ON SITE. We have also seen, that instead of prioritising the vulnerable, they seem not to have proceeded with risk assessment on this basis, but rather at snails’ pace through the whole workforce.
“It is truly shocking that there has been such intransigence in spite of such repeated highlighting of the concerns. I can assure you that we will not be letting this matter drop.”