Focus on you - Animal health

26 November 2009

PCS members work in hundreds of different government departments, agencies and private sector companies but we often struggle with the same issues. This month we ask, what's it like working for Animal health?

What is the best thing about working for Animal Health?

Most Animal Health offices are based in rural areas and there is a powerful sense that you are giving something back.

Members take great pride in working on national disease outbreaks as we feel we are ‘doing our bit’ and are involved in something worthwhile.

Unfortunately, these achievements are increasingly under threat as the government introduces more and more policies that are at odds with our values.

What are the main issues facing members in Animal Health?

Management has imposed a new performance management system that incorporates a marking scheme adjusted to meet set quotas. This means that managers can ‘moderate’ markings up or down depending on how people perform relative to their colleagues.

The system is unfair, has been imposed on us without our agreement and we are campaigning against it.

A number of members are also facing uncertainty over the future of their jobs due to the agency’s centralisation program, which has been going on for over two years. This is particularly worrying as it comes at a time when our redundancy terms through the civil service compensation scheme are under attack.

What are the top priorities for Animal Health members over the next few months?

We are working hard to deal with a number of issues. The first is the fallout from a reorganisation earlier this year that introduced new ways of working and caused a lot of stress.

We are also helping members get to grips with a new computer system and the performance management system discussed above.

Can you tell us about any recent successes?

Earlier this year members expressed their anger about the new performance management system by putting a motion to our group conference. It was passed unanimously.

We have also won strong support for our ballot for industrial action which has resulted in management coming back to the negotiating table. These talks were ongoing as View went to press.

All this campaigning has led to an increase in recruitment and we are the fastest growing branch within PCS’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) group.

Are there any practical ways in which readers can support Animal Health staff?

We encourage members to visit the Defra web pages at to learn more about our campaigns and how to show your support.

What does Animal Health do?

Animal Health, formerly the State Veterinary Service, is part of Defra and is the executive agency primarily responsible for ensuring farm animals in Great Britain are healthy, disease-free and well looked after.

It is best known for dealing with notifiable animal disease outbreaks and shot to national prominence in 2001, as part of MAFF, during the outbreak of foot and mouth that year.

Animal Health also deals with the Bovine TB crisis in the west country and Wales, a problem for which there appears to be no end in sight. Among the myriad of its lesser known tasks is the regulation of the trade in endangered species.

 

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