Meat inspectors employed by the UK’s Food Standards Agency have pressed forward with a strike after negotiations broke down over pay.

The first of two four-hour strikes took place today (26 August). In a statement, the FSA confirmed a quarter of operational staff were involved in the strike action, which led to nine meat plants – 3% of sites, the agency noted – not operating.

Some 250 continued operating a full service. The FSA said the rest of the sites were “either operating different hours, on other days, or are not ordinarily requiring FSA-employed inspectors”. A second strike is scheduled for tomorrow.

Trade union Unison claimed inspectors took action following the FSA’s “decision not to pass on a 1% cost of living pay rise to its staff”.

The FSA “imposed” a 0.75% rise, Unison said, “while the remainder was distributed to a selective part of the workforce, despite the concerns of trade unions”.

“Our members are not asking for a massive pay increase, just for the cost of living rise they are entitled to. This money should be distributed fairly and transparently to the entire workforce but the FSA has consistently refused to do this,” said Unison general secretary Dave Prentis.

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“The strike is purely about stopping the FSA pick-pocketing our members, who work in some of the most dirty, difficult and stressful conditions to keep the public safe from contaminated meat.”

The FSA had not responded to a request for comment on Unison’s claims at the time of writing.