- Disturbing tales of violence and intimidation
at a British slaughterhouse have emerged as the country's biggest union
threatens further disruption of the meat industry.
- David Morgan's experience on his last
day as a technician with the Meat Hygiene Service at Rose County Foods
near Clitheroe in Lancashire illustrates the "climate of fear"
that permeates the industry, says the public service union Unison.
- Two of the Rose County slaughtermen -
piece-workers who did not like hygiene staff slowing production to ensure
the safety of carcasses as it meant they would get lower pay - confronted
Mr Morgan, 40, on his last day, abused him and led him to expect an unwelcome
- Though he escaped by climbing out of
a window, he was pursued by five slaughtermen in a car. They stopped and
chased him over the busy A59, caught him, roughed him up and then carried
him to their car.
- Back at the slaughterhouse, they threw
him in a vat of offal including urine, inedible animal parts and blood
dyed blue so that it could not enter the human food chain. It was, said
local police who handed out a caution, a prank that went wrong. But the
tank contained products condemned partly because of the BSE crisis, and
Mr Morgan took in mouthfuls as he tried to climb out. Since the incident
in January 1998, he has feared that he might have contracted some long-term
- Unison contends that Mr Morgan's story
is not unique and points to reports of inspectors being locked in freezers,
threatened with knives and guns, or beaten up. The offices and property
of some had been vandalised.
- One inspector complained that meat companies
always attempted to increase the speed of production lines and that hygiene
service managers failed to give inspectors the support they needed and
were "too close" to the meat companies.
- Unison, which is seeking a 5 per cent
pay increase for the inspectors, argues that its campaign is reinforced
by anger over working conditions. More than 1,000 inspectors walked out
for 24 hours last Tuesday and the union plans strikes lasting up to three
days which could affect supplies to shops.
- Johnstone McNeill, chief executive of
the Hygiene Service, admits that his managers work closely with meat companies,
but said the rate of prosecution shows their independence. The service
took a "robust line" over intimidation of staff, he said.