Meat inspectors from the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) have gone on strike today and will do the same tomorrow in a row over pay.
Members of the union, Unison, in England, Wales and Scotland staged a four-hour walkout from 6:30-10:30am today and will do this again tomorrow (Wednesday 27 August).
Unison is in dispute with the FSA following its decision not to pass on a 1% cost of living pay rise to its staff.
Instead, a 0.75% rise was imposed, while the remainder was distributed to a selective part of the workforce.
Strike action vote
The decision to strike by the meat inspectors, official veterinarians and support staff follows a ballot earlier this month, which saw Unison’s FSA members vote for strike action over the imposed pay offer.
Unison said the strikes would go ahead after the FSA refused another offer to try to settle the dispute through independent conciliation.
The union has called on the FSA to settle the dispute via ACAS, and has put forward proposals to allow talks to continue.
An FSA spokesman said a quarter of operational staff were involved in today’s action by Unison.
"We have worked closely with plant operators to minimise impact as much as possible. As a result of our contingency planning, 3% (9) of meat plants were not operating, with 72% of establishments (250) operating with a full service.
"The remainder have been either operating different hours, on other days, or are not ordinarily requiring FSA-employed inspectors.”
Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary, said it has done everything possible to avoid this dispute, right up to the eleventh hour.
“But we've been left with no choice because the FSA has imposed a settlement and refused to budge.”
Prentis said members are not asking for a massive pay increase, just the cost of living rise they are entitled to.
“This money should be distributed fairly and transparently to the entire workforce but the FSA has consistently refused to do this.”
He said it is not an attack on the meat industry or slaughterhouses.
“This is an issue with the FSA which is why we've chosen to take two four-hour strikes at the beginning of the day in order not to undermine the industry.
“The strike is purely about stopping the FSA pick-pocketing our members, who work in some of the most dirty, difficult and stressful conditions to keep the public safe from contaminated meat."