A NUMBER of driving tests were cancelled this week after union members held a two-day strike, citing a refusal by the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to acknowledge the dangers of the new Driving test and a demand that staff work up to 90 minutes a day without pay.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) struck on Monday and Tuesday (Dec 4-5) amid concerns about the new tests. The new driving tests, introduced on Monday, include an element of testing learners on the use of a Sat-Nav, as well as other changes.
PCS members are also expected to travel from their homes to remote or distant test centres, without being paid for up to one and a half hours per day.
PCS Organising Officer Steve Donoghue said: “I have spoken to one member who lives in Carmarthen and usually covers the tests that are delivered there. He is regularly asked to cover driving tests in Aberystwyth. Whereas previously staff were paid for the time it took them to travel from their substantive place of work to these locations, they will now not be paid for the first 45 minutes each way. This is clearly a case of the DVSA trying to cut budgets at our members’ expense. The blame for this disruption lies squarely with the DVSA and the Department for Transport due to their insistence on imposing changes to terms and conditions on staff which have been rejected by the vast majority of staff in recent ballots.”
There was a picket line outside the Test Centre in Llanelli on Monday morning, which was supported by Unison, Llanelli Trades Council and the Llanelli Constituency Labour party. All tests booked for Monday and Tuesday were cancelled.
PCS Branch Treasurer Paul Dallimore said: “we regret any inconvenience caused to learners whose tests have been postponed. However, we are committed to making sure that our concerns over the Sat-Nav element of the new tests are properly Health & Safety checked before going live. Examiners have been told to put the Sat-Nav bag in the foot well whilst conducting the test, putting candidates, examiners and other road users at risk in an emergency if the said bag was to get trapped under the dual controls. In addition, local routes have been found to have serious flaws in the directions given by the Sat-Nav itself so examiners have to tell candidates to override the instruction as it is incorrect.”
Responding to the strike action, DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn said: “The fact PCS is trying to undermine the launch of the new test by calling for strike action shows a shameful disregard for both road safety and learner drivers who have worked so hard to be ready to take their test.
“The new driving test has been designed to make sure new drivers have the skills they need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving. Rail fares to go up by 3.4% from the New Year ‘It is one step in helping reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on Britain’s roads.
“During the last 3 years the changes – which are welcomed by most examiners, road safety experts, disability groups and instructors – have been developed and trialled extensively with a wide range of our staff, learners and other organisations. Over 4000 candidates were involved in the trial.
“I met with PCS on November 2 and they turned down my offer of mediation, although our offer still stands. This means that we cannot move forward together to resolve this dispute, for the sake of our staff and customers.”
‘Knife attacker’ remanded into custody
A CARMARTHEN man accused of ‘repeatedly’ stabbing another man in Bridge Street on Friday (Dec 8) was remanded into custody until January.
Gareth George Edwards, 44, of Priory Street, indicated two guilty pleas to charges of maliciously wounding Michael Byard with the intent of causing grievous bodily harm and possessing a bladed article in a public place, namely a kitchen knife.
Representing Edwards, David Williams made no submissions at this stage.
No application for bail was made, and Edwards was remanded into custody until he appears at Swansea Crown Court on January 8.
A Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson said: “Following an incident in Bridge St, Carmarthen on Friday afternoon, Dec 8, at around 4.30pm, three people have been charged.
“A 44 year old man has been charged with Section 18 Assault and Possession of an Offensive Weapon and is due appear at Llanelli Magistrates court today, Dec 11.
“A 50 year old man has been charged with Common Assault and bailed to appear at Llanelli Magistrates Court on Thursday, Dec 28.
“A 43 year old woman has been charged with Assault and bailed to appear at Llanelli Magistrates Court on Thursday, Dec 28.”
Snow causes school closures across county
SEVERAL snows across Carmarthenshire are closed today (Dec 11) as heavy snowfall overnight has caused hazardous conditions.
The current list of schools closed in Carmarthenshire this morning consists of:
- Brynasaron (Llangeler)
- Cae’r Felin
- Carreg Hirfaen
- Rhys Prichard Llandovery
- Talley / Talyllychau
All of the closures cite snow as the reason.
The council’s website states for Talley / Talyllychau: “The majority of staff are unable to make it in, plus the taxi service have informed us that they are unable to collect the children from the most rural areas.”
Over the weekend a weather warning was issues for the majority of the UK as snow fell and temperatures dropped.
You can check the status of your child’s school on the Carmarthenshire County Council website: http://www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/home/residents/education-schools/emergency-school-closures#.Wi5Sokpl_IU
Christmas parcel delivered to Glangwilli Hospital
BLISS, the UK’s leading premature and sick baby charity, has donated Christmas parcels to every neonatal unit in Wales – including Glangwilli Hospital – to make sure that babies and their parents know that they are not alone this Christmas.
The Christmas gifts will arrive at the neonatal units this week and will be distributed by unit staff and volunteers.
The parcels, which also contain gifts for parents, comprise of: a Bliss teddy bear, dungarees, photo frame, children’s book, snacks and toiletries. The parcel includes additional information about the support parents can receive from Bliss. The majority of these gifts have been donated by Bliss’ corporate partners including Pampers, Mothercare, Barnack Confectionary and Mush.
Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive at Bliss said: “Having a baby on the neonatal unit can be an isolating experience for parents – especially at Christmas. We hope through this small gesture, we can let parents know that they aren’t alone.
“Bliss would like to thank all of our corporate partners who helped to make this project possible. We hope that if the scheme is successful we will be able to roll the Christmas parcels out nationwide in future to reach all parents with a baby in neonatal care at Christmas.”
Head of Nursing for Children’s Services for NHS Wales Eirlys Thomas said: “On behalf of all the parents and babies we would like to thank Bliss for their kind donations. They will certainly cheer up all the parents who will need to spend Christmas in hospital with their babies.”
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