Unison told The Grocer the FSA workers had fallen short of the legal threshold by one vote during the balloting which closed on 31 October

Food Standards Agency workers have failed to reach the legal threshold for strike action following a ballot of staff last month over pay.

Unison this week told The Grocer the FSA workers had fallen short of the legal threshold for industrial action by just one vote during the balloting, which closed on 31 October.

Legally, ballots need to meet a 50% turnout threshold of eligible workers if strike action is to be permitted.

The union said the votes it did receive had shown “strong support for taking action over their inadequate pay offer, but by the narrowest possible margin, turnout didn’t meet the legal threshold”.

Hundreds of meat inspectors, vets and office-based staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were involved in the dispute, after they rejected a pay offer of between 2% and 5%.

Potential FSA vet and meat inspector strike set to further pressurise festive supplies

Unison was calling for a “significantly higher offer” and put forward a 10% pay claim. FSA staff played “a vital role in keeping contaminated meat off people’s plates” but they have to work in “difficult and unpleasant conditions”, the trade union insisted, and “must be rewarded accordingly”.

The British Meat Processors Association had warned that if the strike had been voted for, there would have been a significant drop in throughput of animals and potential shortages of meat products in the run-up to Christmas – compounding fears of poultry shortages due to the country’s worst ever avian flu outbreak.

This would have been “catastrophic” for suppliers as without FSA workers, processors would have been unable to process any livestock, which BMPA technical director David Lindars had warned would “stop us in our tracks”.

Unison said it was now returning to the negotiation table with the FSA. There may also in the coming months be a re-ballot, but this has not yet been confirmed.