13 August 2001
Strike set to delay farm payments

By Donald MacPhail

FARMERS face delays in receiving foot-and-mouth compensation payments after former Ministry of Agriculture civil servants voted for strike action.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union employed by the now-defunct MAFF decided by a margin of two to one on Monday (13 August) to take industrial action.

Union members, who are mostly administrative staff, are furious over pay differentials in the new Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Staff transferred from the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions earn on average 2000-3000 more and receive an extra weeks holiday.

Strikes will be held across the country on Monday (20 August), after which staff are asked not to work overtime, or beyond the terms of their contracts.

Further regional strikes are also planned.

PCS national officer for DEFRA Sheila Pickman said disruptions would almost certainly lead to delays in processing compensation and subsidy claims.

“This may well mean that farmers will have to wait a bit longer for compensation and subsidies as administration will be affected,” she said.

She added that work on the ground to tackle the epidemic would not be affected by the industrial action.

In the nationwide ballot, 1185 PCS members voted for strike action with 553 against. Some 1375 voted for work to rule, with 364 against. Turnout was 54%.

An offer of 600 for all staff plus 1000 for lower ranks in London, and 750 for higher grades in London and all regional staff has been rejected by staff.

PCS is demanding a basic increase of 2000 or 10% for all MAFF staff.

Ms Pickman said PCS hoped for a negotiated settlement, but had received no indication from employers that the action can be avoided.

“Members are frustrated and angry and want the opportunity to tell employers that,” she said.

DEFRA was set up in the aftermath of the Labour election victory in June with to promote sustainable development in the countryside.

The pay discrepancy occurred because individual Whitehall departments negotiate pay and conditions individually and these are transferred over.

FREE NEWS UPDATE
CLICK HERE to receive FWis FREE new daily email newsletter to keep up-to-date with the latest news of foot-and-mouth and other farming-related stories