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NCT worker slams 'mayhem' at centres as staff struggle with backlog

Dublin Live logo Dublin Live 24/11/2022 Roisin Butler
Interior of a car © Getty Images Interior of a car

An NCT worker has criticised the pressure he and his colleagues are under nationwide, saying that workers are “flat out” due to a severe backlog in appointments.

The delays to the system have occured partially as a result of Covid-19, with some centres booked up provisionally until March 2023. The backlog has forced management to recruit additional support staff from countries such as the Philippines and Spain.

"John", who asked Dublin Live not to use his real name, has been employed as an NCT worker for over a decade. He says that test centres are chaotic at the moment due to the sheer volume of people turning up for their appointments.

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John told Dublin Live: “There’s nowhere to park and people end up waiting around with their entire families. It’s just mayhem. The main problem we have is if the car fails, people will ask for bookings to do the retest.”

The recruitment of support staff from abroad may help stem the current pile up. However, John claims the existing workforce have concerns about this being a viable solution.

While the support workers are trained, they may not be fully qualified mechanics and will therefore not be able to carry out all elements of the test. This puts a strain on existing staff, many of whom have worked in the motoring trade for most of their careers.

He adds: “They’ll be checking the lights, doing the initial test. It’s over to us to check the underbody. We’re going to have to talk on behalf of the unqualified workers when it eventually comes into effect.”

Most of the existing workforce belongs to trade union SIPTU, which objects to the recruitment of unqualified support staff. John and other workers are calling for management to take greater steps to address the stress workers are under.

John adds: "“I personally can’t work any harder than the way I am now. The bookings are nothing to do with us but our staff are flat out. When I arrive, the car park will be full of people and they won’t know what’s going on, they’ve never been in the centre before.”

The solution that frustrated workers seek is a targeted approach that supports existing staff. John says that that many workers have been left disillusioned, which could lead to further resignations.

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The Road Safety Authority estimates that some drivers may have to wait up to six months for an NCT appointment. Penalties for driving a vehicle without an NCT certificate include a €2000 fine, 5 penalty points or up to 3 months imprisonment.

Dublin Live contacted the NCT head office however they declined to comment.

Earlier this year the Road Safety Authority replied to a Parliamentary Question about the issue from Donegal Independent TD Thomas Pringle. They confirmed that some parts of the test do not need to be carried out by a fully qualified mechanic, as they are either administrative in nature or use automated test equipment.

According to the RSA: "“NCTS has proposed to pilot the introduction of separately trained staff to carry out these elements of the test, while the overall quality of the NCT will remain the responsibility of fully qualified staff."

“The RSA has agreed that NCTS may trial the possible use of trained staff who are not qualified mechanics to carry out agreed elements of the NCT. This will be considered further in coming months as the proposal is developed and piloted while ensuring the quality of the test is maintained.”

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