Division among driving instructors over examiner strikes amid test backlog

The impending strike action by driving examiners has provoked strong comments from instructors.

Driving tests are set to be cancelled and rearranged across the region due to strikes
Driving tests are set to be cancelled and rearranged across the region due to strikes

A large number of driving examiners who are members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union will be going on strike in the West Midlands on Monday and Tuesday.

The strike action is part of national industrial action by the PCS union over pay, pensions, jobs and redundancy terms. It is set to affect test centres across the region, with centres in Dudley, Featherstone, Lichfield, Stafford, Wednesbury and Wolverhampton among those expected to see tests cancelled and rearranged due to the strike action.

For some driving instructors based across the region, there was uncertainty around whether their learners would be able to take their tests or not, an issue which had provoked differing reactions.

Shaz Akhtar, who owns and runs Shaz’s School of Motoring in Wolverhampton, said she could understand why the strikes were going ahead and said she supported the examiners, despite the effects of the disruption.

She said: “I was quite shocked to be honest about the strikes, but you do hear about how much they are getting paid and how much they want against inflation, so I do support them despite the disruption it will cause.

“I did have someone who was supposed to be having their test this week and I told them to reschedule, but the problem is that the new date was too far in the future, so it does cause an issue in that respect.”

“However, I was shocked by what the examiners were getting paid and the two per cent raise they were being offered, so it’s understandable why they are striking.”

Another driving instructor in Sandwell, who asked not to be named, said he felt the strikes were a joke due to the backlog it was causing.

He said: “After the Covid measures ended, we were left chasing up on exams and tests that we are still chasing up now and there has been a massive backlog, so this strike is a joke in my opinion.

“I have someone who is meant to have their test on Monday and I don’t know what to tell them as they don’t know whether to turn up or rebook for a test that could be up to four weeks in the future.” “I’m going to lose out as people will be cancelling lessons due to not being able to take their tests this week, so it’s just a massive issue for me.”

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency said it was working to ensure that as many appointments as possible went ahead and asked customers to turn up as normal.

A DVSA spokesman said: “DVSA is working hard to keep any disruption caused by industrial action to a minimum, so as many much-needed appointments will go ahead as possible.

“We are putting in place contingency measures and are sorry for any inconvenience.

“We are advising all customers to turn up for their appointment as usual.

“Driving test customers who have an appointment on a day when industrial action is taking place will be contacted directly with further information if their driving test is affected.

“However, should they wish to, they can rearrange or cancel their booking in line with our usual policy.”

The PCS group president for Department of Transport Paul Williams said he thought that message was irresponsible if it was the case and apologised to anyone turning up without knowing if their test was happening.

He said: “As I understand it, the DVSA has said that people should sign up for their tests and hope that a driving examiner is there to take them and, if that is the case, it’s irresponsible as they know full well the strides we’ve taken have been well supported and people risk turning up for no reason.

“Our position is that we apologise to any customers who turn up at centres at the moment as the strike action really does have an effect on the public and we’ve got the support for this as we’re not prepared to put with the lowest public sector payoff.

“We’d like a 10 per cent rise, which is in line with inflation and we think that’s reasonable given we’ve had pay raises since 2012 that were either below inflation or no pay rise at all, so we think 10 per cent is quite fair.”

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