DVA workers ponder future as cuts sink in

Clare Wilson Linda Laverty Amanda O Donnell and Joanne McDonnell at the DVLA in Coleraine
Clare Wilson Linda Laverty Amanda O Donnell and Joanne McDonnell at the DVLA in Coleraine

The human tales behind the numbers are beginning to emerge after Thursday’s revelation that more than 300 Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) employees look set to lose their jobs.

One long-time worker at the Coleraine-based centre – who looks after two children and her aging parents alone – yesterday told of the dire uncertainty in which she now finds herself, while the DUP issued a warning that more civil service job losses could follow soon.

Single mother Clare Wilson, 44, is a management-level employee at the County Hall, Coleraine, where about 250 of the DVA jobs are based (the remaining 60-or-so being scattered across the country).

She had worked at the DVA since leaving school, and described hearing the news.

“One of the girls said: quick, quick, there’s an announcement. Immediately, I got off the phone as quickly as I could. I looked at her face, and she was crying. You just feel the blood drain, and your stomach hits the floor.”

Her two children – 12 and 14 – are in school in Coleraine, where she sits on her high school’s parents’ forum, and she added: “I have parents who, while they’re not falling off their feet, they are older and need somebody to be about. My brother lives overseas, so it’s down to me.”

Even if work did come up in Belfast, she said it would be a huge commute in each direction every morning.

Asked what she is going to do now, she replied: “Your guess is as good as mine.”

She is also a union representative for the Northern Ireland Public Sector Alliance (NIPSA), and the union’s assistant secretary Ryan McKinney said it seems not all jobs will go in one fell swoop, but rather the process could take until the end of the year.

He added a demonstration is planned for Friday, March 21, from the County Hall to the Diamond in Coleraine, starting at 12.15pm until 1.30pm.

Meanwhile, Sammy Wilson, DUP East Antrim MP and ex-finance minister, issued a statement which said the DVA job losses could “pale into insignificance compared to the job losses which will be imposed upon 1,600 civil servants currently employed in Northern Ireland to deliver work for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)”.

He said the jobs could be lost if no progress is made to break the deadlock over the welfare changes being demanded by Westminster.

“If Sinn Fein and the SDLP continue to block welfare reform then we will have different rules for welfare in Northern Ireland, a different computer system and untrained civil servants,” he said.

In such circumstances, he said, “we could not deliver benefit administration for areas in Great Britain as we do at present and the jobs will go”.