Driving tests hit as examiners go on strike

PCS union members picket at the Driving Test Centre in Musselburgh. Picture: William Davidson

PCS union members picket at the Driving Test Centre in Musselburgh. Picture: William Davidson

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DRIVING tests across the Lothians will be cancelled for two days as examiners strike in a row over working conditions they claim will lead to roads becoming less safe.

The Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency wants to increase the number of tests carried out in a day – but examiners fear it could force learners to sit their tests in the dark in the winter.

They also claim traditional manoeuvres, such as reverse parking and three-point turns, are also likely to be phased out to make tests shorter. Even the reading of registration plates to test eyesight could stop.

According to the Public and Commercial Services Union, the plans to increase the number of driving tests in a day could “breach the legal requirement for elements of the test to be conducted in good daylight”.

Talks with DVSA management collapsed earlier this week, when the agency refused to agree to conduct new research on test times, including the impact on safety, or launch a full staffing review as there are 350 posts currently unfilled across the UK.

As a result all test centres across Britain will be shut for 48 hours from today, including those at Currie, Musselburgh and Livingston. Vehicle testers and traffic inspectors will also strike, disrupting MOTs for heavy goods vehicles.

Steve Grigson, branch officer for the PCS Scotland, said: “The DVSA management is attempting to enforce contractual changes on staff without any negotiation or discussion.

“Currently examiners take seven tests, five days a week – that was reduced from eight in the late 1990s because the tests became longer, and it can take an hour when paperwork and the eye test is included. They want to increase that to eight tests per day so examiners will have to start earlier or finish later. There has never been any negotiation about that.

“It will mean tests early morning or late evenings in the winter, which means they won’t be conducted in ‘good daylight’, which is laid down in the driving test legislation to make sure tests are safe and that all learners have a level playing field when they’re being tested.

“It affects driver safety and examiners’ health and safety.”

He added: “It’s sad that it’s come to this because we don’t want to cause disruption but it’s a last resort.”

According to the PCS the last time any research into driving examiners’ stress levels was in 1987, when the number of daily tests was reduced from nine to eight.

One examiner, who didn’t want to be named, said: “We’ll be picketing the test centre at Musselburgh. This is all about the government’s austerity cuts. We think they’re trying to get ready for privatisation.”