Union officials and MPs have voiced concern over the UK Government’s handling of a long-running dispute over Covid-related safety at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), claiming the Department for Transport (DfT) intervened to prevent an agreement to end the row.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps asking for an explanation.

Union members at the DVLA office in Swansea have launched a series of strikes as part of a campaign for more safety measures to be taken, including a reduction in the number of staff expected to work at the site. Further industrial action is planned.

The DVLA insists it has followed official guidance and is doing all it can to keep staff safe.

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PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said in his letter to Mr Shapps there had been a “huge shift” in the direction of negotiations, adding:

“The only deduction we can make, given that the agreement had been drawn up with DVLA and DfT officials, is that it was withdrawn on your direction.

“I urge you to put the nearly completed agreement back on the table.”

Mr Serwotka said the union had been left with no choice but to proceed with industrial action.

SNP MP Chris Stephens, who chairs the union’s parliamentary group, has also written to Mr Shapps, saying: “It had appeared hopeful that a deal between the union and management had been agreed which would resolve this satisfactorily.

“But now we understand that, far from acting in a positive way, ministerial interference is now being cited as the reason for the sudden – and otherwise seemingly inexplicable – withdrawal of the agreement.”