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Thorny question of agricultural wage controls

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Created: 02/01/2013 – By Michael Donovan

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond is firmly behind the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board saying “Removing this separate structure seems entirely consistent with modern notions of workers’ rights, industrial relations and business management.”

He says few farm workers receive the minimum…..

and that the average earnings for full time workers are 41 per cent above the industry minimums.

Yet not all support the policy. The AWB covers some 150,000 workers, and acts as a bench mark for thousands of other rural jobs. It has protected workers for decades, and provided some useful benefits.
If farm workers are returned to the statutory sick and holiday payments there’s the possibility of a total £9m being removed from their wage packet, according to the Unite Union.
One farm worker who was on a recent march in London pointed out an inconsistency in the NFU approach saying,
Dairy farmers are concerned at the pressure exerted on them by the free market dominated by supermarkets, and are asking for controls and support in order to provide a return and living wage. We are similarly worried that abolishing the AWB will reduce control and cause wages to decline. Farmers search for ways to raise their returns from the business, and a free-for-all in wages could well hit those who are working the land.
Others pointed out the a decline in wages would make the industry less attractive as a career choice, reducing new entrants and further increasing the average age of workers.
They also suggested that full time workers, as cited by Meurig Raymand, were a decreasing proportion of the total involved in agricultural work, as farms moved to a larger number of part-time and seasonal staff.

caption:  Today’s farm work involves a high level of skills and responsibility
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