MHS and Unison sign agreement

Meat hygiene bosses have expressed relief that next week's proposed industrial action by UK meat inspectors has been called off.

Meat inspectors represented by workers union Unison were threatening to go on a 72-hour strike on 2 December over a dispute involving proposed changes to pay and working conditions.

Following negotiations with the MHS, the strike was cancelled yesterday. The MHS and Unison have signed an agreement that commits to "engaging in meaningful and serious discussions to reach a negotiated settlement on pay and revised terms and conditions of service for year two of the two-year pay deal".

Steve McGrath, MHS chief executive, said he was pleased that the negotiations had resulted in the strike being called off.

"I have always been confident that we could reach an agreement and I look forward to continuing our constructive dialogue in the New Year," he said.

"In recognition of the exceptional current economic pressures facing MHS staff and as a gesture of goodwill, the MHS has agreed to implement year one of the two-year pay deal as of January 2009."

Simon Watson, UNISON National Officer for Meat Inspectors, said that taking strike action is always a last resort and the agreement would give "breathing space" for further talks.

"Meat hygiene inspectors will get a long overdue pay rise of 2.99% in the new year, backdated to August 2007 - in time to help with the post-Christmas bills," he said.

"We still have some tough talking to do over the 'work anytime' proposals and members have a right to expect movement on their 2008 pay deal. However, the agreement with the Meat Hygiene Service signals a willingness to reach a negotiated settlement and UNISON will work hard to ensure that we get the best deal possible for our members."