The Meat Hygiene Service Faces Threats of Strikes
1. Meat Inspectors across the UK are threatening to strike during the run-up to Christmas. They are complaining that they are being "pushed to the limit" by the Meat Hygiene Service and its stipulations. Their union UNISON has plans to ballot for a strike over a proposed change to terms and conditions of more than 1000 inspectors' employment, which would require them to work 37 hours a week, any time between 00.01 hrs on Mondays to 24.00 Fridays, with shifts or place-of-work subject to change at short notice. Contractual overtime would be abolished and payments for unsocial hours would be reduced.
2. Simon Watson, UNISON'S National Officer for Meat Inspectors says: "Staff are being denied an agreed pay rise unless they accept sweeping cuts to overtime payments and change to a 'work any time' system". Some members "tell us they will be £100 a week worse off", he says, continuing: "If strike action goes ahead, major meat companies and supermarkets face the loss of millions of pounds in meat production."
3. UNISON complains that "on top of the pay dispute there is a culture of bullying and harassment "in British slaughterhouses. Steve McGrath, Chief Executive of the MHS says that the service has contingency plans in the event of strikes, but adds that the MHS "remains committed to securing a negotiated settlement".
4. VEGA notes that present problems with bovine TB add duties for meat inspectors and their use of knives; cuts into organs and tissues facilitate examinations, but at the same time the inspector's knife work also contributes to the spread of other diseases.