Retired vets rehired by Agriculture for plant inspections
SEVERAL dozen vets who retired in the past number of years went on to be rehired by the Department of Agriculture for lucrative work inspecting meat processing plants.
The 59 vets were added to a panel of several hundred vets who are called on to carry out meat inspection duties.
The department last night stressed that these vets are paid a flat fee per shift and were not paid a retainer. Figures published a number of months ago show that a breakdown of the shift payments mean they get paid around €68 per hour.
The vets, who were paid €689,000 in 2011, retired in the past few years and were not part of the flood of public sector retirements at the end of February this year.
Vets can earn up to €82,000 a year for carrying out health inspections at abattoirs.
In 2010, the department paid €17m for meat inspection duties. Some 656 private vets were hired with at least 20 of them earning over €50,000 for this work.
The top earner received €82,329 while three others were paid €75,000.
Meanwhile, the State also pays vets to carry out testing for TB and brucellosis with some earning up to €19,000 for this alone.
Vets have resisted plans by the department to have the lucrative meat inspection work carried out by civil servants and last December voted for industrial action.
Under current legislation, animals must be slaughtered in the presence of a vet and live cattle bound for export are not allowed to leave port until a vet has inspected them.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has said it is essential that the meat inspection service is delivered at the lowest possible cost and that vets' current role continue as it is. In a statement issued yesterday, a department spokesman said it had allowed 59 of its previously retired vets to be included in the panel for meat inspection duties and they are "called on from time to time when needed".
"They are paid a flat fee per shift if they are called on, otherwise they do not gain an income from the department.
"Many of the these vets are retired a number of years and are not connected to the February 2012 retirements. All of them are subject to pension abatement rules and are registered with the Veterinary Council," he added.
The department failed to respond to queries about why they were rehiring retired vets.