No ‘immediate threat’ of vets striking at meat factories

There is no “immediate threat” of temporary veterinary inspectors (TVIs) going on strike at meat factories, the chief executive of Veterinary Ireland, Finbarr Murphy, has said.

At the moment, both Veterinary Ireland and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine are at loggerheads over a “breach to the collective agreement” between both parties, Murphy added.

A mediation process – which is being managed by the former head of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Kieran Mulvey – is currently underway.

Speaking to AgriLand, Murphy said: “Veterinary Ireland has given a commitment not to escalate its action while the mediation process is ongoing.

So there is no immediate threat of strike action.

It is understood that the mediation process was initially expected to take eight weeks, a timeline which has since expired. While this process is taking place, inspectors will work to the existing contract.

Shortage of TVIs

Continuing, the chief executive of Veterinary Ireland stated that there is a “worrying shortage” of TVIs on meat factory panels at present.

The representative body wants new TVIs to be recruited on the same terms that current inspectors are on.

Murphy explained that the department closed meat factory panels in 2012 and that it has failed to reopen them since then.

Since the hiring of new TVIs was suspended by the department, people have retired and their positions haven’t been filled – meaning that there is “an acute shortage” of inspectors and that current personnel are “stretched”, he said.

According to Murphy, there are approximately 650 TVIs active on meat factory panels; he believes that there is a need to hire an additional 150 inspectors to ease the pressure being faced by current TVIs.

He explained that inspectors are contracted to complete a minimum two-hour shift per day in a meat factory, but this can rise in 15-minute segments – depending on the roster requirement. Generally, a TVI would work anywhere between two hours and three and a half hours in a factory every day.

Under the collective agreement, the chief executive of Veterinary Ireland explained that each TVI is expected to carry out one shift per day; but it is not very unusual for an inspector to be “double shifting” due to the current shortage of TVIs on panels arising from the closure of the panels by the department, Murphy added.

The department has been contacted for a response on the matter.