Hundreds of staff at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have launched a four-day strike over Covid-related safety.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) at the site in Swansea, will walk out until Friday, after talks failed to resolve the row.

The union said those involved include operational staff who have not been working from home.

PCS has warned that further industrial action will take place if managers do not make the safety improvements the union is demanding, such as reducing the number of staff working at the site.

There was an outbreak of Covid at the offices last year but DVLA said it has followed official health guidance for keeping staff safe.

The strike is likely to delay paper applications it receives, as well as calls to its contact centre, but online services will still be available.

PCS said progress had been made in talks, but that the lack of immediate moves to reduce numbers in the DVLA offices was the sticking point.

Agreement has been reached on removing more than 300 desks, revising risk assessments which has led to a further 300 staff being sent home, and a commitment on how to proceed in talks over the coming months.

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PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "That PCS members are prepared to take unprecedented strike action shows just how badly DVLA management have failed in their responsibility to keep staff safe.

"No civil servant should have to go on strike to guarantee their safety at work.

"It is inconceivable that this Government is allowing DLVA to risk the lives of its staff by forcing them into a workplace that is so clearly not safe.

"We call on the DVLA and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to enter into meaningful negotiations with the union, as we are determined to only send our members back into DVLA when the workplace is safe again."

Responding to the union's claims, a DVLA spokesperson told reporters: “DVLA has followed and implemented Welsh Government guidance at every single point throughout the pandemic, having consistently worked with Public Health Wales, Environmental Health and Swansea Bay Health Board to introduce a wide range of safety measures.

"This has enabled DVLA staff to continue to deliver essential services to the public right across the UK in a COVID-19 secure way.

“Any industrial action is likely to have a detrimental impact on motorists as we begin the first stages of the roadmap out of lockdown and the UK vaccination rollout programme is in full swing. We hope that PCS will consider this impact when deciding how it wishes to proceed.

“Cases of COVID-19 among DVLA staff remain low. Currently there are no cases among staff on-site, and just 2 cases in staff who are working from home, out of a workforce of more than 6,000.”

Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru has said it wishes to “extend solidarity” with striking DVLA workers. Responding to the strike Plaid Cymru’s South Wales West regional candidates Sioned Williams and Luke Fletcher said:

“We extend our solidarity with the striking DVLA workers in Swansea who are striking for safe working conditions.

"No employee should have to go on strike to guarantee their safety at work and it is the duty of the employer – in this case ultimately the Westminster Government – to provide a safe workspace for employees. The DVLA workers have our full support.”