Supermarket shelves could be void of poultrymeat, pork and red meat, if a planned strike by meat hygiene inspectors goes ahead, trade union Unison has warned.
The union has received 63% support for strike action in a ballot of meat hygiene inspectors, vets and support staff employed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), over a long-running pay dispute.
The FSA has offered a 0.75% pay rise, while Unison is calling for “an above inflation pay increase that would begin to make up some of the 15% that has been lost from the pay packets of FSA staff under the coalition government”.
If a strike goes ahead, it is claimed that more than 130 slaughterhouses in England, Wales and Scotland will be affected, hitting red and white meat supplies to butchers and supermarkets.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “Meat inspectors and vets are a vital link in the food safety chain, protecting the public by keeping contaminated meat off our plates.
“The strike may well clear supermarket shelves and butchers’ shops of meat and threaten summer barbecues. It is down to the FSA to come up with a fair offer.
“Working in slaughterhouses is an extremely messy and stressful job and our members will not accept another cut in the value of their wages.”
In response, the FSA said the union had not yet announced what action would take place as a result of the vote.
“Should Unison decide to take strike action, our contingency plans will minimise any disruption to meat supplies,” it added.
According to Unison, its members have prevented three million chickens contaminated with faeces from entering the human food chain in the past two years, as well as 5.5 million birds with ascites – a build-up of fluid caused by heart or liver diseases.
It also claimed to have identified 560,000 cases of milk spot caused by parasitic larvae in pigs, and two million instances of tapeworm in red meat.
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