The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has said that a strike from vets and and meat inspectors could disrupt the flow of goods into Northern Ireland.

Members of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) are set to strike for five days, from October 30 until November 3, disrupting Northern Ireland’s ports and abattoirs.

DAERA warned that if the strike action proceeds as has been indicated, that there may be disruption to the flow of goods through the department’s sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) inspection facilities at Belfast Harbour, Larne Port, Warrenpoint and potentially the airports.

A spokesperson for DAERA said that, while the department has not been formally notified of strike action, that it expects to receive formal notification on the strike this week from NIPSA.

“If strike action proceeds as has been indicated, there will be significant disruption for meat processing establishments, which may present issues in relation to animal health and welfare, public health and continuity of the food supply chain,” the spokesperson said.

“DAERA is taking all steps open to it to mitigate these issues and maintain its essential statutory obligations and is working with its stakeholders, industry, and other partners to explore how the impacts might be alleviated.

“It will also continue to ensure all avenues are explored with trade union colleagues regarding any mitigations that can be put in place to alleviate disruption as far as possible.”

‘Meaningful pay’

NIPSA members working across the veterinary service in DAERA said they will protest the decision to impose a derisory pay award of £552 to all civil servants in Northern Ireland for 2022/2023.

The DAERA spokesperson said: “The department fully respects the rights of colleagues to take industrial action and regrets sincerely that the budget situation that civil servants are trying their best to manage, has meant that it has not been possible to provide a meaningful pay award for NI civil service staff.

“The department very much hopes that a resolution to the current position on NI civil service pay can be found as soon as possible.”

NIPSA members working in ports are set to walk out at midnight on Monday, October 30, and will then be joined by hundreds of members across the Veterinary Service Animal Health Group (VSAHG).

NIPSA’s general secretary, Carmel Gates, said: “Our members are fed up with derisory pay awards.

“They see their counterparts elsewhere on these islands receive significantly better pay and are no longer prepared to suffer in silence.

“They have been subjected to a sanctions budget which is intended to punish politicians.  Unfortunately, it is workers and public services that are being harmed.”