Planned strikes by meat inspectors over pay, which trade union Unison has said could “clear supermarket shelves and butchers shops” of poultry and other meats, is set to go ahead next week.
Two four-hour walkouts by meat inspectors, official veterinarians and support staff employed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are scheduled to take place from 6.30am-10.30am on Tuesday (26 August), and again on Wednesday (27 August).
The decision follows a ballot earlier this month, which saw Unison’s FSA members vote 63% in favour of strike action over a pay offer of 0.75%.
Union leader Dave Prentis, said: “Staff in slaughterhouses work in some of the most dirty, difficult and stressful conditions, surrounded by blood and faeces, to keep the public safe from contaminated meat.
“It is only fair that our members receive a pay increase that is at least in line with inflation. They should be recognised for the vital role they play in safeguarding the human food chain against harmful and repulsive dirt and diseases.
“It is not too late for the FSA to avoid the prospect of a strike that may well clear supermarket shelves and butchers’ shops of meat in the barbecue season.”
“Staff in slaughterhouses work in some of the most dirty, difficult and stressful conditions, surrounded by blood and faeces, to keep the public safe from contaminated meat.”
Dave Prentis, Unison
The FSA said it was disappointed Unison has decided to call industrial action next week, but insists it has contingency plans in place to minimise any disruption. “We are continuing to hold discussions with Unison, but in the event that the planned strike action goes ahead, we would not expect there to be an effect on meat supplies to shops and supermarkets,” said a spokeswoman.
Unison, which represents more than 500 meat inspectors, vets and support staff, claims its members have prevented two million chickens contaminated with faeces from entering the human food chain in the past two years, as well as five-and-a-half million birds with ascites – a build-up of fluid caused by heart or liver diseases.
It also claims to have identified 560,000 cases of milk spot caused by parasitic larvae in pigs, and two million instances of tapeworm in red meat.
But Norman Bagley, policy director with the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, said the figures were “spurious” and did not take into account “the diligence of plant-employed staff who work under the permanent supervision of government employed vets”.
Unison is seeking an above inflation pay increase which, it says, would make up some of the 15% that has been lost from the pay packets of FSA staff under the coalition government.