The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), has said strike action by vets and meat processors mean that Northern Ireland’s ports and airports are “significantly impacted with limited capability”.

DAERA said it cannot guarantee the ongoing provision of official controls and activities
across Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) inspection facilities at Northern Ireland’s ports and airports, and has urged traders to prepare.

The department said the strike is causing “significant disruption to service provision” in Northern Ireland.

Yesterday (November 2), DAERA said it was “unable to provide any service for the red meat (beef and lamb) sector”.

The department said it would work with the sector for the remainder of the week to provide limited service, should staffing levels allow.

DAERA has advised food business operators to continue to plan for “significant disruption” throughout this week, and ensure appropriate contingency arrangements are put in place.

Service disruption

DAERA said it has continued to be able to provide “some level of service” to the intensive livestock sector while a reduced level of service has been provided to the pork sector.

Full-service provision has been maintained across the poultry slaughter and processing sector.

A DAERA spokesperson said: “DAERA has continued to be able to provide some level of service to the intensive livestock sector and is monitoring activities across portal and field operations and, where possible, is taking action to mitigate the worst impacts on service delivery.

“We are keeping the situation under review and engaging with our stakeholders to inform them of what level of service they can expect.

“It is important to note that while some limited mitigations are available to us, any steps taken must be in line with the relevant legislation and NICS policy governing strike action.”

NIPSA strike

The strike, which is set to end today (Friday, November 3) after running for five days since Monday (October 30), was organised by members of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA).

NIPSA warned before the strike commenced that the action would be “significant” and would disrupt Northern Ireland’s ports and abattoirs.

NIPSA members across DAERA’s veterinary service are protesting the decision to impose a pay award of £552 to all civil servants in Northern Ireland for 2022/2023.

DAERA has said that the 2022/2023 pay award could not be higher due to budget concerns.

A DAERA spokesperson said: “The department respects the rights of its staff to take industrial action and deeply regrets that the 2022 Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) pay award could not have been higher due to the very challenging budgetary position.”