Driving instructors protest over ‘degrading’ test centre lockout

Road Safety Authority says it is following Covid-19 advice and cannot allow access

Driving instructors linked to Unite trade union protest outside the Road Safety Authority on Jamestown Road in Finglas on Thursday. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Driving instructors have accused the Road Safety Authority (RSA) of treating them in a "degrading" fashion by denying them access to test centres.

The instructors held a demonstration outside the RSA driving test centre office on Jamestown Road in Finglas, Dublin on Thursday. They have been denied access to test centre facilities since the start of the pandemic in March of last year.

Instructor Laura Broxon said they were not allowed to use the toilets, sinks or canteen. "It's been degrading to have to stand out in the rain and not even be allowed inside to wash our hands," she said.

“We are part of the solution in clearing the backlog for driving tests. About 80 per cent of my students would hire my car for their test which means I am the accompanying driver. I am the one who takes them there.

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“Whether it is blistering heat or lashing rain, I am the one who is forced to stand outside no matter what.”

The protest was organised by the Unite trade union, with regional officer Jean O’Dowd highlighting that most other restrictions had been lifted.

Nightclubs

Instructors could go into nightclubs, restaurants or cafes but could not use the facilities in the driving test centre, she said.

"Yet both the Road Safety Authority and the Department of Transport have refused to engage with driving instructors, who are now the only group of workers in the country being denied basic shelter and sanitary facilities under the pretext of restrictions which have long since been relaxed for everyone else."

Instructor Dominic Brophy said he could spend up to 30 hours with his learner drivers. He said the tester usually got into his seat and put his or her hands on the same steering wheel.

“The Road Safety Authority should want me to be able to wash my hands,” he said, “because their employee is getting into the same seat.

“There are queues around the corner for Bad Bobs, you can get into museums or stadiums. The RSA has had 19 months to solve this problem and they have done nothing.”

In response, the authority said it operated test centres out of a variety of locations, access to which was not controlled by the RSA in the “vast majority of cases”.

It added: “In only a small number of centres has the RSA direct control of access and in those centres we do not have the necessary resources to manage safe access by ADIs [advanced driving instructors] and other members of the public in a way that keeps our staff and customers safe while continuing to deliver this essential service,” the authority said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times