Ten things you didn’t know about Prospect’s work in environment and rural affairs


Ten things you didn’t know about Prospect’s work in environment and rural affairs

Geraldine O’Connell, Prospect national secretary, talks about the union’s work in environment and rural affairs.


Who does Prospect represent?  

Our members safeguard animal and plant health as well as public health through research, inspections and disease surveillance (including all veterinary staff, animal health officers and technical staff, plant health officers, horticultural marketing inspectors and scientists).

Veterinary research officers oversee the safe and effective use of veterinary medicinal products, while members involved in marine planning, licensing and research manage a network of marine protected areas, and marine enforcement officers and scientists oversee the UK fishing fleet and UK fishing quotas and ensure sustainable marine fisheries management.

How many members do we represent in environment and affairs?

More than 500 specialist staff involved in environmental and countryside stewardship, as well as more than 1,000 members in other rural affairs and marine work.

What are the top three issues we are facing?

Further reductions in government funding; the public sector pay cap and further losses of key staff with the necessary skills and experience to work in this industry; and the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, including the potential transformation of how we do our work and the future job security of our EU national members.

Is Prospect doing any specific campaigning right now in your area?

Our members are actively involved in the public sector pay campaign. Years of underfunding and investment in resources – particularly staff – have resulted in a number of members leaving the public sector, meaning key skills and experience have been lost.

What does Prospect think are likely to be the big issues over the next five years?

The major issue will be how the environment and rural affairs are affected post-Brexit. Our members who are EU nationals still face uncertainty.

Will the government ensure current regulatory measures, in respect of animal and plant health biosecurity, are maintained? Will the government maintain funding for current research projects, disease surveillance and marine sustainability within government laboratories and Fera Science Ltd, the recent joint venture between Capita and DEFRA?

We’ll be watching as the government sets out its commitment to the environment, including their future land use policy and the future use of natural resources. 

Who are some of the big companies who negotiate with us?

The predominance of our members are employed within the civil service and public sector. These include the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), Rural Payments Agency, Natural England, Environment Agency, National Trust, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Kew Gardens, Forestry Commission, the Core-Department and tertiary governments and Fera Science Ltd.

Are most of our members permanent employees or freelance/contactors?

About 99% of our membership are permanent employees.

How do we support our members?

The support and input, knowledge and experience provided by our representatives is invaluable to members. The reps deal with workplace issues and individual member representation. We also support members through Prospect HQ on policy issues, strategic discussions on future operating structures and of course collective negotiations covering their pay and terms and conditions of employment.

What’s a recent success we’ve had supporting a member, or members?

The most recent key successes that we have achieved before the imposition of the public sector pay cap has been the successful settlement of equal pay cases for veterinary staff employed in veterinary laboratories and scientists then employed by Fera. We continue to monitor all equality data to ensure that similar circumstances do not arise in the again.

Why should someone working in environment and rural affairs join Prospect?

Prospect represents the biggest range of specialist staff within government employed on work both in the environment and rural affairs. With such specialist knowledge we are the best-placed union to respond to government initiatives and to challenge decisions to best advantage, not just for our members but also the public.

We have a wealth of experience in negotiations with employers on pay and all terms and conditions of service as they affect field staff, laboratory staff and all other management and policy staff alike.

We are respected for our input into important consultation exercises that not only determine the future support for the industry but also the resources needed to provide the government’s objectives going forward.