The dispute, involving several hundred inspectors, vets, and office-based staff in Wales, England and Northern Ireland has the potential to hit meat supplies on supermarket shelves and bring the industry to a halt, the union UNISON has warned.
The vote comes after FSA staff voted earlier this year to reject a pay offer of between 2% and 5%.
UNISON head of local government Mike Short said: “FSA staff play a vital role in keeping contaminated meat off people’s plates. But many have to work in a difficult and unpleasant conditions inspecting carcasses for signs of disease.
“These employees protect consumers, ensure good animal welfare, and must be rewarded accordingly. The FSA needs to come up with a significantly higher offer to avoid any disruption.”
The FSA has said its contingency plans would minimise any disruption to meat supplies if there are strikes.
However, the British Meat Processors Association insisted any industrial action by FSA staff has the potential to bring a lot of the meat supply chain to a standstill because, without meat hygiene inspectors and official veterinarians, animals cannot be slaughtered, and meat cannot be released and sent for sale in shops.
Nick Allen, of the BMPA commented: “To make matters worse, we already have a shortage of people in these posts due to the labour crisis. The choice of timing for the strikes will also cause maximum damage to the whole domestic and export supply chain.
“Not only will it disrupt Christmas supplies to shops when volumes are at their highest during the year, but it has the potential to cause a serious animal welfare problem on farms if processors simply can’t take any animals due to the absence of a vet. This strike action will hurt the FSA, processors, consumers, farmers and animals alike.”