Work to rule by vets is 'undermining normal processing activity'
Meat Industry Ireland (MII) the body representative for meat factories has said an ongoing dispute between Veterinary Ireland and the Department of Agriculture is undermining processing activity.
It says the meat processing industry has been impacted by a work-to-rule by Temporary Veterinary Inspectors (TVIs) for much of the year due to a dispute between Veterinary Ireland and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
It's understood the work to rule comes amid ongoing talks between the Department of Agriculture and the vets around a number of issues concerning the TVI panel.
"Over the past week, there has been an intensification of the work-to-rule. While processors are not involved in this dispute, they are nonetheless caught in the middle,” MII said in a statement.
It also said that the recent action is undermining normal processing activity and creating uncertainty for businesses and farmers.
“Some plants are facing significant disruption to operations which is impacting on processing throughout and animal intake and risking supplies to customers at a critical time of year.
“We need both parties at the table immediately and the work-to-rule halted,” it said.
The Department of Agriculture said it was "disappointed" at the disruption to meat inspections by the vets and that these inspections are necessary for the protection of public health and food safety.
A spokesperson for Veterinary Ireland said vets are currently only fulfilling contractual agreements at the moment.
He said at least 150 new veterinary positions are needed on the TVI panel to reduce the current shortage of vets.
According to figures from the Department of Agriculture, in 2016, 602 Temporary Veterinary Inspectors (TVIs) were engaged by it to provide meat inspections services in approved meat plants throughout Ireland.
They were paid a total of €15.9m.
Of these 602 TVIs, 28 were retired Veterinary Inspectorate staff.