Whilst never tiring of delivering penny lectures on the importance of keeping everyone safe during the pandemic, the government is signally failing to practice what it preaches in its own backyard, as was recently reported in the Guardian. (Grant Shapps faces fury over mass Covid outbreak at DVLA by Tom Wall, The Guardian 23 January 2021)
Back in the first lockdown, the government’s vehicle licensing department, the DVLA, in Swansea managed to function with only 250 workers on site, with other staff working from home. But now, for no apparent reason other than the management toadying to the government’s ‘back to work’ obsession, the DVLA suddenly finds it imperative to have some 1,800 staff back in its Swansea office.
The shocking consequence of this boneheaded policy is there for all to see: since September, 535 workers have fallen ill with covid. And yet, rather than abandon the failed policy, management has stepped up its efforts to bully everyone into turning up to work.
Workers report that people who develop covid symptoms are still ‘encouraged’ to return to work. Vulnerable workers have had their requests to work from home denied. Covid-related absences have been counted against sick leave. And anyone who goes sick for over ten days is given a warning.
And as for those who dutifully turn up at the office, woe betide them if they fail to turn off their test-and-trace apps to stop the irritating pinging of alerts!
The DVLA’s workers are obliged to work in often cramped conditions, which make a mockery of social distancing. One survey reported by the Guardian reveals that nearly 70 percent are less than two metres from those seated in front of them, while a mere 20 percent are less than two metres from colleagues seated next to them.
The testimony of one worker makes it obvious that the offices have become a veritable breeding ground for the virus. She explained to the newspaper that there are about 120 workers on every floor: “On each floor there are only two sets of toilets: ladies and gents. There are four kitchens on each floor too. All the teams are sharing the facilities – it’s high risk. There are cases on every floor now.”
So notorious have the DVLA offices become that when the workers there go into their local shops, other shoppers nervously sidle away from them. The outbreak at the office is blamed for spreading the virus widely throughout the surrounding area.
It is clear that this criminally irresponsible management regime is not just down to some overzealous middle-management suit, but is driven from the top. Just before the plague hit the DVLA, transport minister Grant Shapps was telling clerical workers to go back to their offices, assuring them: “It is now safe to go back to work.”
SEE ALSO: This very useful demonstration of how covid spreads in offices by Spanish newspaper El Pais.