Examiners at Dorchester's driving test centre went on strike yesterday over ongoing disputes over 'punitive travel time proposals' and new test manoeuvres.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) picketed the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) centre in Peverell Avenue, Poundbury after they said DVSA bosses refused to negotiate and placed caveats on meetings.

The protest is part of national industrial action after 84 per cent of PCS members voted in favour of strike action, on a 70 per cent turnout. 

PCS south west regional secretary, James Davies said workers no longer had a 'normal' place of work, being deployed to centres across the county at short notice adding up to 90 minutes travel time to their day unpaid.

"This dispute has been an ongoing issue for about two years now. We have tried to reach an agreement through negotiation but without result, so strike action is a last resort," he said.

Examiner and PCS member, Angela Dallison said she had rented a house in Dorchester to be close to work. 

"As I'm an LGV examiner, I'm being sent to Poole which is an extra hour and a half a day - seven and a half hours or an extra day of work a week," she said. 

Mr Davies added the protest was also in response to concerns over the safety of new driving test manoeuvres.

He said new drivers would now be asked to pull up and park on the right hand side of roads, reverse and then pull off again into potential oncoming traffic.

"In the past, we'd go into quieter roads so we are able to control the situation. What examiners are being asked to do now is go into busy roads which creates a much higher risk. It's a manoeuvre even experienced drivers would have an issue with," Ms Dallison said. 

She added normally 35 tests would be taken at the centre per day but the industrial action had meant just four tests were completed yesterday.

Examiner Jim Miller said the DVSA had purposefully avoided examinations being booked on strike days to dissuade union members from action but the move had caused 'considerable' financial impact to the DVSA as they now had several full-time members of staff not on strike who were unable to do their job. 

PCS members said they would continue to strike until DVSA agreed to negotiate. 

A statement from the DVSA said staff signed up the new contract in 2014 which was negotiated with the unions and agreed by staff in a ballot.
Gareth Llewellyn, DVSA Chief Executive, said the industrial action was 'pointless'. 

"We have made PCS an improved offer to the one they accepted, but the union is deliberately misleading its members by claiming the better offer we have put to them requires staff to work longer for less.

"PCS’s shameful efforts to link the dispute to the new driving test in an attempt to broaden support for its unreasonable position shows a total disregard for learner drivers," he said.