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    Farming Union Dismayed At Unison Meat Strike
31/03/06

Confirmation this afternoon from Unison that it intends to halt production in major UK meat plants has been greeted with dismay by NFU Scotland. Unison has announced that the Meat Hygiene Service alone will be on strike from midnight on Sunday 2 April to midnight on Friday 7 April. The MHS is required to certify meat before it can enter the food chain.

Whilst stressing that NFUS is not criticising Unison’s attempts to support its members over pensions, NFUS believes that Unison’s action is misdirected and will cost jobs. It will cause major disruption to private businesses that have no ability to influence its campaign. Already the threat of a strike has resulted in Scotland’s only remaining pig processing facility in Broxburn giving notice to 150 workers, with the future of the remaining 850 in serious doubt if it cannot open next week.

NFUS also believes Unison’s actions could lead to animal welfare problems for pig farmers in particular if they are unable to move animals for processing

NFUS President John Kinnaird said:

“I am not in anyway suggesting that Unison is wrong to be fighting its corner on pensions, but I am now hugely concerned at its methods of doing so. I genuinely don’t understand why Unison would wish to threaten people’s jobs in an attempt to put pressure on government. I’m sure this disruption will give a high profile to their cause but do they expect to get public sympathy by damaging businesses, and potentially putting people out of work, even though these individuals are innocent victims of this dispute and are in no position to influence Unison’s cause?

“We understand discussions are continuing between Hall’s of Broxburn, the only remaining pigs facility in Scotland, and its MHS inspectors. It is vital that the plant opens next week – if it doesn’t it could be a devastating and permanent blow to the Scottish pigs industry and the 1000 jobs that factory alone supports. Other meat plants in Scotland who can face fixed operating costs of between £150,000 and £200,000 will be dealt a crippling blow by the strike. Hall’s has already stated it may not re-open if forced to close next week – it could be the same story for other plants.

“For pig farmers facing a week with no market outlet, there could be real animal welfare problems if they do not have enough space to deal with animals that would normally have left the farm.

“There is a lesson in here for government which must have a contingency plan in place to deal with this. It needs to see what can be done now to deal with this. Surely we can arrange a suitable derogation to allow other suitably qualified individuals, like vets, to do the MHS inspectors job in these kinds of exceptional circumstances? Consumers, farmers and our meat industry should not be penalised because a handful of inspectors down tools.”

link Relief As Meat Strike Is Called Off
link New MHS Strike Could Cause Massive Disruption
link NFUS Warns Of Possible Meat Hygiene Service Strike

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