Food Standards Agency (FSA) staff will not be striking over pay in the run up to Christmas, following a ballot of UNISON members, in what will come as a huge relief to the meat industry.
UNISON, the UK’s largest union, had warned that the dispute involving several hundred inspectors, vets, and office-based staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland could result in strikes in the run up to and over Christmas leading to less meat on supermarket shelves.
Earlier in the year, FSA staff voted to reject a pay offer of between 2% and 5%. UNISON said this was significantly lower than inflation, currently 9.9%, and falls short of the 10% pay claim it put forward.
But the three-week ballot of FSA employees, which closed on Monday (October 31), fell short of the numbers required to bring about strike action.
A UNISON spokesperson said: “Staff showed strong support for taking action over their inadequate pay offer, but by the narrowest possible margin, turnout didn’t meet the legal threshold.”
Robert Locker, head of field operations at the FSA said: “The FSA values the important role played by its frontline staff, and our work to ensure public safety in relation to food, and animal welfare will continue.”
The agency pointed out that, in determining the annual pay award that it works within the pay remit guidance published by central government. The agency’s 2-5% pay award reflects that position.
British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) chief executive Nick Allen had warned that possible strike action by FSA staff had the potential to bring parts of the meat supply chain ‘to a standstill’, especially against the backdrop of ongoing labour shortages. Some pork plants are still recording vacancy rates of 15-23%, according to BMPA.
Mr Allen said the timing of the strikes would have caused maximum damage to the whole domestic and export supply chain, disrupting Christmas supplies and causing serious animal welfare problem on farms if processors couldn’t process sufficient numbers of animals.