Irish vets’ strike could disrupt Christmas trade

Irish private vets have voted in favour of industrial action to protest against the government’s decision to transfer part of meat plant inspections to civil servants. Meat Industry Ireland (MII) has warned that the strike would disrupt production and exports at a crucial time, and urged both sides to settle the dispute in a responsible manner.

MII director Cormac Healy told Meat Trades Journal: “Any disruption of this nature is not what business wants, especially in the middle of an economic crisis, and we are absolutely opposed to it. Food and meat exports are Ireland’s strengths in this economic climate, and we hope that Veterinary Ireland and the Department of Agriculture will sit down and respond to this issue in a responsible manner.”

The Irish government is planning to train public servants to carry out meat inspections instead of private vets, in an effort to save up to €5m (£4.3m) a year and be more in line with food safety practices in the rest of the EU. But the union argues that the current system, managed by the independent Meat Inspection Service (MIS), is what gave Ireland an edge on the international market, and changing it would mean downgrading safety standards.

Veterinary Ireland chief executive Finbarr Murphy said: “We are concerned about the implications of the reform on our exports, and we have offered further talks to the Department of Agriculture, but there is the prospect of a strike if we do not hear from them by Friday 9 December.”

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