Driving test examiners have walked out on the day a controversial new manoeuvre was brought in.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union mounted picket lines outside test centres across the country amid claims that examiners are being told to work longer, harder and for no extra pay because of the new tests.
It requires a driver to pull up on the right hand side of the road facing oncoming traffic, reverse two car lengths and then rejoin the traffic.
A number of examiners based in Huddersfield are thought to be taking part in 48 hours of industrial action, which started this morning.
Exact numbers of tests cancelled have not yet been revealed but one Huddersfield instructor has told the Examiner the Waverley Road test centre appeared to be quieter than normal.
At Halifax there was a full picket line with all tests thought to have been suspended.
John Hegney, a senior PCS rep in Yorkshire, told the Examiner that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s (DVSA) was trying to force examiners to work for free.
He said they were attempting to make the first and last 45 minutes of the day unpaid, for instance if staff had to drive to a more distant test centre it would come out of their own pockets.
“Our working day is being extended by up to an hour-and-a-half,” he said.
“Normally that’s been working time but the DVSA is trying to say travelling time should be at our own expense.”
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “DVSA have cancelled thousands of tests due to their intransigence over a dispute they have had two years to resolve.
“Learner drivers inconvenienced by this have our sympathy but the blame lies squarely with DVSA and the government.”
Mr Serwotka said PCS members in DVSA had showed their strength of feeling by the 84% vote for strike action.
He said members from the other main union in DVSA had rejected it too.
DVSA director of people, communications and engagement Adrian Long said: “PCS’s desperate claim that changes to the driving test will cause examiners to work longer and harder is simply not true.
“In the last year we’ve recruited more than 320 extra driving examiners – reducing waiting times to an average of seven weeks across the country.
“It’s also significantly reduced the number of times we ask examiners to work at other centres – 1.5 days on average in the last four months.
“This means that we are not asking examiners to travel an extra day each week as PCS claim.”
Ian McIntosh, chief executive Red Driving School, said: “Although we appreciate that there are some concerns around certain changes, such as the parking on the opposite side of the road manoeuvre, the DVSA has planned these changes with the help of expert organisations over a lengthy period of time and conducted extensive research.
“In addition, over 3,000 learner tests during a trial period were carried out without incident.
“We feel that it is sensible that the UK’s driving test is aligned to practical, real-world driving experiences.”
But Labour shadow minister, Rachael Maskell, said: “It is appalling that DVSA senior managers and ministers have allowed this dispute to escalate, meaning thousands of driving tests are having to be cancelled.
“Driving examiners have told me they have serious and genuine concerns about the safety of the new test and we support the PCS union’s call for it to be suspended to allow for further analysis.”