25 January 2008
More than 730 vets, scientists and other specialist staff working for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have begun a 'work to rule' in protest at an imposed pay settlement.
The members of the Prospect trade union will boycott voluntary activities, such as briefings, following a ballot in December when 71% of members voted for industrial action short of a strike.
Prospect said the pay deal imposed on the specialist staff was worth 2.9% overall but increases had not been consolidated into the department's pay bands, and more than a third of the staff will not receive any rise.
National secretary Geraldine O'Connell said: 'The department cannot seriously expect its specialist staff, who are at the forefront of the UK's fight against diseases such as foot and mouth and avian flu, to remain motivated when it keeps imposing below-inflation pay awards.'
A spokeswoman for Defra said it was 'unfortunate' that Prospect had opted to take industrial action and the department would continue to meet union officials.
'Any action by Prospect will not impact on our ability to deal with animal disease emergencies,' she said. 'Members have dispensation to continue to support frontline services to ensure that control of animal disease outbreaks will not be affected.'