FSA staff to be balloted for strike action

A proposed strike by meat hygiene inspectors and supporting staff could cause disruption to the meat supply chain, processing bosses have warned.

Unison is set to ballot more than 500 members employed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) throughout England, Scotland and Wales, including inspectors, vets and support staff, for strike action over an imposed pay offer of 0.75%.

However, meat industry leaders expressed concern at the action. Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors Association, said: “Any strike could be very disruptive for farmers, processors, retailers and consumers. If a strike were to go ahead, the FSA and FBOs will need to work together to minimise the impact on the meat supply chain as a whole and on individual businesses.”

Norman Bagley, policy director of the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) added: “Meat inspectors cannot expect pay rises without giving up their outdated terms and conditions. The sooner controls are outsourced and industry is given the flexible service it needs the better.”

Unison said it was seeking 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”. Dave Prentis, the union’s general secretary, said: “Our members working for the FSA do a vital job to ensure that the meat on our plates is free from disease and safe to eat. They have an enormous responsibility in maintaining consumer health, and it is right that they receive a pay increase that is at least in line with inflation.

“We are calling on the FSA to come back to the negotiating table with a better offer. It is an insult that the FSA has chosen to impose below-inflation pay awards two years in a row, with no real consultation, which represents a massive cut to people’s pay and pensions. It is time to take a stand, and we are urging members to vote yes to strike action.”

An FSA spokesperson said: “The FSA is still discussing its 2014/15 pay proposals with trade unions, and is disappointed that Unison members are being balloted to take strike action. However, should Unison members vote in favour of strike action, the FSA will invoke its contingency plans to ensure minimum disruption to its services and the public, and our work to ensure public safety in relation to food will continue.

“The FSA values the important role played by its frontline staff, and we aim for agreement over pay with the unions that represent them. The FSA operates within government pay policy, which has set an overall limit on pay increases of 1%, so in line with this available funding we have made formal pay proposals to the trade unions for 2014/15 for a 0.75% consolidated pay increase to all members of staff.”

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