Coveney hopes to see end to industrial action at his department
Impact spokesman confirmed union had been invited to meet officials
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney: said he hoped today’s meeting would help resolve any differences. Photograph: Inpho
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said he hopes to see an end to industrial action at his department following a meeting between management and union representatives today. An Impact spokesman confirmed the union had been invited to meet department officials.
“There have been a number of meetings with the department in 2013, but no serious engagement,” the Impact spokesman said. “Although the fact that management has sought a meeting is welcome, we will have to assess whether management are serious about addressing the issues.”
Limited industrial action involving more than 600 agricultural officers began on Monday morning but Impact said the action would escalate if there was no resolution. It said it would begin to affect farmers’ payments and the food industry in late February or early March.”
The duties of the affected staff include inspections of farms, meat factories, dairy processors, marts and other premises to ensure that EU and Irish regulations are being adhered to in areas such as food safety.
The dispute centres around the impact of rationalisation and reforms on the duties of agricultural officers and what the union describes as the failure of management to engage in a meaningful way with the union. Impact has claimed management has persisted in transferring the officers’ duties to higher paid civil servants and unnecessarily allocating inspection work to external contractors.
Addressing the meeting of the Select Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr Coveney said he hoped today’s meeting would help resolve any differences “and we can move away from any escalation of industrial action ... certainly from a management point of view, I know they will be approaching this with an open mind”.
Several committee members raised the issue of the abandonment of thousands of horses as a result of the recession and a tightening of regulations following the horse meat scandal. Mr Coveney said his department would make an example of people who knowingly abused horses.