20 August 2001
Solid support for Defra strike

By Donald MacPhail

CIVIL servants have given overwhelming support to a strike which will delay foot-and-mouth compensation and subsidy payments, say union leaders.

Former Ministry of Agriculture employees at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs took industrial action on Monday (20 August).

Ex-MAFF members of the Public and Commercial Services Union in England had voted to strike over pay and conditions.

Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS) payments, environmental scheme applications and foot-and-mouth compensation are most likely to be affected.

Union representative Sheila Pickman told FWI on Monday afternoon that early reports suggest that up to 90% of the 3500 members took part.

Severe disruption was reported at DEFRA offices at Nottingham, York, Worcester and the information technology centre at Guildford, she said.

Work was also disrupted at the British Cattle Movement Service offices in Workington, Cumbria, claimed Ms Pickman.

“On reports weve had so far, Id estimate that there has been 80-90% support from members which has the potential for severe disruption at DEFRA.”

Only a handful of staff had gone to work, in some cases to man telephones to help ensure that efforts to fight foot-and-mouth are not hampered, she said.

“It was never our intention to disrupt the fight against foot-and-mouth, but to give a strong message to DEFRA,” said Ms Pickman.

A spokesman for DEFRA said the strike had only caused “minor disruptions”.

Former MAFF members are furious that staff transferred to DEFRA from the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions earn 2000-3000 more.

DEFRA has offered pay rises ranging from 1350-1600, but the union is holding out for 10% or 2000 for all members.

Further strikes are planned and union members have been asked not to work overtime or beyond the terms of their contracts while the dispute continues.

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