Strike action by vets will ‘disrupt checks at NI ports’
Strike action by government vets here will disrupt checks at ports and abattoirs, it has been warned.
NIPSA union members in the Veterinary Service Animal Health Group (VSAHG) began five days of action on Monday 30th October over what the union said was a derisory pay award of £552 being imposed across the NI Civil Service.
Initially vets at the ports will walk out, with other members to follow.
NIPSA issued an update on Tuesday 31st October to say that the planned protest at Warrenpoint Port had been cancelled, due to the severe flooding and continued rain.
More than 150 vets work in the VSAHG, along with technical, administrative and policy-making staff.
The action could have an impact on some food production plants with vets playing a vital role in food safety, carrying out import and export checks, animal welfare inspections and developing policy.
Many food products have to be checked by vets in Northern Ireland’s ports as they arrive from Great Britain, under the terms of the Windsor Framework.
This mainly concerns so-called “red lane” goods which are due to travel onwards to the Republic of Ireland.
However, a proportion of “green lane” goods need an identity check to ensure the products have been accurately recorded on a packing list.
NIPSA General Secretary Carmel Gates said her members were “fed up” with their pay, compared to their counterparts elsewhere in the UK.
“The latest paltry pay award, following decades of austerity and below inflation pay awards, is a further kick in the teeth to all hard-working civil servants,” she added.
The VSAHG’s function is critical in safeguarding animal welfare in Northern Ireland, protecting public health and enabling the export and import of animals and agri-food products.
The agri-food industry is worth £5.4bn to the local economy.
Part of their work also focuses on preventing, controlling and/or eradicating animal diseases that could pose a threat to the industry.
Meanwhile, Retail NI has expressed concern that significant disruption could be caused to its members by the planned five-day industrial action.
Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “We have real concerns that this five-day strike could cause significant disruption to many of our wholesale and retail members that rely on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) inspection facilities.
“With the new Windsor Accord arrangements still bedding in and Christmas only around the corner, the timing of this strike for the local retail sector could not have come at a worse time.
“We cannot afford to have strikes like this disputing our local economy any further and hope that an agreed way forward on pay can be found.”