Learner drivers hit by strike action

By James HoreLEARNER drivers reacted angrily to the closure of a test centre as examiners joined thousands of public sector workers on a 48-hour national strike.

By James Hore

LEARNER drivers reacted angrily to the closure of a test centre as examiners joined thousands of public sector workers on a 48-hour national strike.

Civil servants across East Anglia were on strike for a second day yesterday in the hope of securing better pay.

Jobcentres, JobcentrePlus offices and social security offices were affected by staff walking out, as well as driving examiners and administrative staff at test centres.

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Learner drivers with tests booked were told to go to the centres in case their examiner was not on strike.

But in Colchester hopeful learners did not even get a chance to start their car as the Whitehall Industrial Estate had shut due to industrial action.

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One angry learner driver, Lee Forster, 19, from Elmstead Market, said he had taken time off work for the test and wanted compensation.

“I had heard that 40% of tests would still be going ahead because if your examiner was non-union, we would still get a test,” he added.

“I am angry about this. Surely we will be a priority now? It is hardly fair if we have to wait. Where is the compensation? Every single person here will take refresher lessons at £30 each before their tests.”

Robert Peace, 18, said he had been preparing for his fourth test and felt disappointed that he had been unable to take it.

“I heard it on the news, but my parents said I should come along just in case. It is hard because you go through the emotions - last night I was nervous. I will need more lessons before another test as well, so it is frustrating.”

His instructor, Kevin Carrington, said he was not in favour of the strikes and added: “We were told to turn up and there could be someone here. No, I don't support what they are doing.”

Motorists phoning the Driving Standards Agency helpline were instructed to go to test centres because it was not clear if all examiners would be on strike.

They were told compensation could be paid for expenses on the day and tests would be rebooked automatically at no further charge, although delays were likely.

Leaders from the Public and Commercial Services union said the strikes were vital to protect workers from “poverty pay”.

A spokesman said: “The indications are that people at work also support what we are doing, but people are so low paid they can't contemplate striking and losing money.

“Our members are so low paid, they have to claim tax credits, they have to do second jobs.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions said it had maintained its services with minimum disruption and there had been no office closures in Suffolk.

“Everyone will get their benefit in the normal way and a lot of people are paid through bank accounts and giros and order books, so it won't affect them a lot,” she added.


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