Driving instructors call for better working conditions during coronavirus pandemic
Driving instructors are being forced to stand outside test centres with no access to bathroom facilities during driving tests, it has been claimed.
A number of instructors took part in protests in Dublin and Sligo, calling for better working conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to trade union Unite, driving instructors are being prevented from accessing Road Safety Authority (RSA) centres while their students sit driving tests.
Instructors say they have to stand in the rain and cannot use hand-washing facilities.
Instructor Laura Broxson said she had to reduce the number of students she can take in one day as she has to return home to wash her hands between each driving lesson.
Ms Broxson, who covers the north Dublin test routes, said: "We find it extremely inhumane that we are stuck in the rain and have nowhere to wash our hands.
"Students would usually hire the driving instructor's car for their test which can last between 45 minutes to an hour and we have to wait outside no matter what the weather is.
"Cafés are not allowing customers to sit in so we have to stand outside in the lashing rain.
"We know that hand sanitiser is not enough and I now have to plan my day as to how I can drive home before my next lesson.
"It means I can take fewer students a day and earn less money every week.
"Driving instructors are making sure they don't drink too much water during the day as we can't access bathrooms."
Instructors are also calling for the suspension of check tests which take place with RSA examiners.
Demonstrators are also calling for the suspension of logbooks and an immediate review of Essential Driving training in light of the ongoing pandemic.
Ms Broxson added: "I have seen parents and grandparents of students standing in the rain because they are also not allowed to sit and wait inside test centres.
"I am very worried about what is going to happen over the next couple of months when the weather gets worse."
A spokesman for the RSA said: "ADIs (Approved Driving Instructors) are important stakeholders in the learning to drive process.
"Unfortunately, since the driver testing service resumed after being suspended due to the Covid-19 health emergency, nobody other than a test candidate can enter a driving test centre.
"This is in order to manage our health and safety responsibilities, keep the service operating and to prevent the spread of the virus.
"We regret this is so and we hope to resume access to ADIs at a future date when the threat of the virus has passed."