Around 100 staff from the DVA offices in Coleraine took part in a protest organised by NIPSA in the town centre on Friday.
A clear message of hope was highlighted by each of the speakers - with each commenting that the campaign to save the 300 DVA jobs in Northern Ireland had only just started.
Joining trade union representatives to address those in attendance was Mayor of Coleraine, councillor David Harding, DUP MP Gregory Campbell and SDLP MLA John Dallat.
Ryan McKinney of NIPSA paid tribute to the Coleraine staff, but blasted the Government for their decision to move vehicle licensing services to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea: “Same on the Government, same on the Minister, “ he said.
“We’ve fought on this issue for two years, we’re no push over, “ said the NIPSA Secretary.
DVA worker, Claire Wilson, who has worked in Coleraine for 28 years described last Thursday’s announcement as ‘the worst day of my career’. The brave Coleraine mother said that the decision would be a ‘disaster for the public and the motor trade’.
She also highlighted that the decision would see ‘less staff in less offices being under pressure to deliver more’.
Mayor Coleraine, councillor David Harding added: “I’m behind you, the political family is behind you, the community is behind you. The fight will go on.”
A tearful John Dallat said that the message for staff must ‘be one of hope’. He reassured the staff that he had been given a message by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan that he would be back in Coleraine and that he hoped to bring good news.
Praising the staff for their campaign to save the jobs, Mr Dallat said that the Coleraine staff had ‘set a cause for other workers across Northern Ireland’, adding: “ You have lit a beacon of hope, you have written yourselves into the history books.”
Making a plea the MLA added: “ There has no be no more jobs haemorrhaged out of Northern Ireland to different parts of Britain, and no more haemorrhaging jobs out of Coleraine.”
Echoing Mr Dallat’s comments, MP for the area Gregory Campbell spoke forcefully, describing the campaign to save the jobs as ‘one of the most vigorous, comprehensive, well organised sustained campaigns’ that he has ever had the pleasure to witness.
The MP said he had raised the issue in the Commons last week, and added that the Executive had also discussed it.
He gave the Coalition Government two options - for them to change their mind and reverse the decision; or work with the civil service to bring the work to the 250 ‘capable employees’ in Coleraine. “Bring the work to the employees, not the employees to the work,” said the MP.
The general secretary of the ICTU, David Begg, said Secretary of State Theresa Villiers “should resign for not protecting jobs in Coleraine”.