By Andrew Watts

 STRIKE ACTION by employees of the Meat Hygiene Service could disrupt activities at many slaughterhouses across the country next week.

About 1000 staff of the MHS belonging to Unison, the public service union, are to strike on Wed (Mar 23) in protest at plans to change the local government pension scheme and raise the retirement age to 65 years.

The English Beef and Lamb Executive is advising farmers to check with their normal market outlet before marketing finished stock for slaughter on Tuesday and Wednesday.

 The strike is currently planned for one day, but Unison is not ruling out another strike the following week if the issues are not resolved.

 EBLEX regional manager Nick Allen, said: “With a possible shortage of MHS staff, some abattoirs may choose not to operate on Wednesday, so they could increase their throughputs on the Tuesday and Thursday.

 “Farmers should be aware there may be fluctuations in demand for stock during the week and should ensure they get the best advice from their normal market or meat plant on when to supply animals,” he added.

 But, as farmers weekly went to press, many markets were unsure what effect, if any, the action would have on their operations.

 “These decisions are being taken elsewhere and we”re not party to those decisions,” said Mark Burgoyne auctioneer at Bridgnorth market.

“It”s all a bit up in the air at the moment. We have a number of options but we don”t know how our buyers intend to deal with the problem in their slaughterhouses,” he added.

Bridgnorth market, Shrops, like many across the country, is a slaughter-only market, so farmers can not take their animals away if they are not satisfied with the offered price.

 “We may have to apply for a green market licence, meaning we could only sell animals that have passed the six-day standstill rule, but at least keepers could take their stock away with them if they weren”t happy with the price. It isn”t ideal, but it may be the best we can do,” said Mr Burgoyne.

andrew.watts@rbi.co.uk