Thursday, 28 June 2012
UNION chiefs have travelled to London in a bid to save 259 jobs at Coleraine’s Driver and Vehicle Agency.
Representatives from NIPSA and the PCS union were in Westminster to lobby MPs in constituencies affected by the proposed closure of local vehicle licensing offices across the UK.
The unions fear Tory reforms will see further centralisation of services at the DVLA’s headquarters in Swansea.
NIPSA’s Assistant Departmental Secretary Michael Robinson said: “We previously secured the support of local politicians for the retaining of Planning Services and MPs including Ian Paisley Jnr have said that ‘protecting public service jobs is crucial in the current economic climate’.
“We aim to convince MPs that the closure of the licensing function would have a devastating impact on the local economy, particularly in Coleraine, and will undoubtedly have a negative effect on the quality of the service.”
Unions say over 300 jobs in Northern Ireland are under threat – the majority of these (259) based in Coleraine.
They say the impact on the local economy will be significant since benefits reliance rate in Coleraine is already considerably higher than the UK average.
“Given how relatively weak the local labour market is, the timing of this proposal could not be worse and will be extremely damaging to the Northern Ireland economy,” continued Michael Robinson.
“DVA staff play an essential role in reducing vehicle fraud and ensuring vehicles are fit for the road and NIPSA will be working alongside the PCS for DVLA staff in England and Wales in the campaign to protect these jobs and the service.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood, whose department is responsible for driver and vehicle licensing in Northern Ireland, said he supported NIPSA in defending local jobs.
“I am very concerned about any threat to jobs, either in Coleraine or in local vehicle licensing offices, that may emerge from the ongoing examination by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency of the options for the future delivery of vehicle licensing services following the planned integration of IT systems next year,” said Mr Attwood.
“In correspondence to, and meetings with, Ministers in the Department for Transport, I have made it clear that there should be no reduction in jobs. Even if the new IT system results in more tax discs being purchased online or through Post Offices, there is still a wide range of vehicle licensing services that could be delivered by staff in DVA, either for Northern Ireland customers or for customers across the UK.
“I have emphasised to Ministers in Britain the exceptionally high standards of service delivered by DVA and also the special economic conditions in Northern Ireland, our reliance on public sector jobs and the need for time to rebuild and rebalance the economy. I have made it clear that now is not the time to be cutting jobs.”