Defra specialists vote for industrial action

Defra specialists vote for industrial action

Government specialists in animal, marine and plant health have voted in favour of industrial action in protest at an imposed 2007 pay offer that amounts to a real terms cut for the majority of staff.

In a ballot of Prospect members in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, over 71% voted in favour of action short of a strike.

The union argues that the imposed offer is worth only 2.9% overall, is five months late and provides no consolidated basic increase to the department’s pay bands. Not only will this have a major impact on future salary increases but it will also affect the pensions of all ‘core Defra’ staff.

Prospect said the result reflected the anger felt by members who consider their efforts in 2007 tackling emergencies such as blue tongue, foot and mouth, and avian flu, have been insulted by the lack of any cost of living increase.

National Secretary Geraldine O’Connell said: "Since 1996 Defra and its predecessor department have had their own pay system and pay negotiations. In all those 11 years, despite some pay settlements that have caused serious problems and hardship, our members have never voted for any form of strike action.

"Yet this year members feel they have been pushed too far. Defra’s decision not to revalorise the pay bands means not only that our members will lag behind their private sector colleagues, by as much as 10.5% at the highest grade, but Defra pay scales will fall behind many civil service equivalents.

"It is a testament to the commitment and professionalism of our members that they rejected the proposition of full strike action for fear of the impact this would have on the UK’s agricultural and farming industries."

The action, which will begin in the New Year, will take the form of a ban on overtime with staff only working conditioned hours and banning all out-of-hours coverage except emergencies. Members expect the action to impact on important government targets such as the time limits given for import inspections of plants and animals entering the country.

Prospect represents over 730 members working in core Defra plus the Marine Fisheries Inspectorate, Plant Health and Seed Inspectorate, Veterinary and Animal Health, Veterinary Medicines Directorate and Pesticides Safety Directorate.