The DVA has been accused of “burying its head in the sand” over its response to strike action due to take place at MOT centres across Northern Ireland today.
Members of the trade union Nipsa are due to strike today across the Northern Ireland civil service over pay and employment conditions.
The union say their striking members make up the majority of staff at MOT centres but, despite the likely disruption, the Department for Infrastructure has advised motorists to turn up for MOT appointments today as usual.
Mark H Durkan, who as Northern Ireland environment minister from 2013 to 2016 had responsibility for the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA), accused the agency of “burying its head in the sand”.
But the Department for Infrastructure, who oversee the DVA and MOT testing following a shake-up of departments in 2016, say there are “measures in place to lessen any impacts” from the strike action.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the department had said: “Customers with appointments for Friday should attend as scheduled.”
Mr Durkan, responding, said: “This is an ostrich-like response from the DVA. They’re burying their heads in the sand and that is how they have been dealing with this issue throughout – waiting until things get worse before taking any action to address them.”
Motorists across Northern Ireland have been faced with lengthy waiting times – often stretching over two months – for an MOT appointment.
The DVA, in response, has hired extra staff and accepted additional appointments, including on Sundays, but the vehicle inspections backlog has not been reduced. A further 1,000 appointments per day will be available in September.
Mr Durkan, referring to today’s strike action, continued: “You also have to wonder if they (the DVA) have brought people in privately who aren’t public servants, per se, and therefore aren’t Nipsa members. Have they got enough of them across all the test centres to carry out business as usual because, if so, they have to come out and say that clearly.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said: “We are doing all that we can to ensure that test centres will open as normal and disruption to our customers minimised. Our advice is that customers with appointments should attend as scheduled.
“We do have measures in place to lessen any impacts and will be monitoring the situation very closely and if things change, we will contact customers with further advice.”