STRIKE UPDATE: Union accused of bringing meat industry into ‘disrepute’

Union leaders have come under attack from meat bosses which have accused the organisation of attempting to bring the industry into “disrepute” with its latest move for industrial action.

Unison announced its meat inspector and veterinary members had recently voted for strike action over a long-running pay dispute with the Food Standards Agency (FSA). It said 63% had called for action after the FSA imposed a 0.75% pay rise. The union wants to see an above-inflation increase for its members, and claimed strike action would “clear supermarket shelves and butchers’ shops of meat”.

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.”

A spokesman for the FSA said it was waiting to see what action the union would take following the vote, but that if strike action did happen, the agency had contingency plans in place to limit any disruption to the sector.
In a press release to announce the news, the union claimed its members had stopped a range of potential hazards entering the food chain over the past two years, listing instances such as 3m cases of chicken contaminated with faeces, 2m instances of tape worm in red meat and 450,000 animals with abscesses.

However, Norman Bagley, policy director with the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, hit back at the union’s claims: “As usual, Unison is using discomfort and disquiet with its members’ employers to attempt to bring the British meat industry into disrepute, inferring that, without their presence meat producers would choose to market diseased or contaminated meat.