AWB is safe but bosses need to adhere to rules

Unite union national secretary Chris Kaufman has welcomed the Government's guarantee of the future of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) - but says some bosses are breaking the law and should be prosecuted.

Kaufman said: "A big hand for Hilary Benn and the Labour government. That's good news as we fight off attacks to abolish (the AWB) in Scotland and Ireland while David Cameron has pledged a future Tory government would send it to the knacker's yard."

But he said up to 20 per cent of workers were not receiving the AWB wage minimum, which is set above the national minimum wage. Kaufman added: "Bring on the inspectors and the prosecutions."

Defra minister Benn said the AWB protects "an isolated and scattered workforce, with little scope for collective bargaining".

AWB NFU horticulture representative and Hayloft Plants owner Derek Jarman added: "We adhere to the AWB because we're visible. The majority of employers are law-abiding but AWB is so complicated, it's very easy to make a mistake."

Jarman added that if the Conservatives win the next election, they are likely to abolish AWB within five years. He said: "If you value your workers, you have to reward them to keep them happy. Better businesses will do better without the AWB and poorer ones will do worse. Workers are mobile and if they aren't happy they will move on."


Jarman said the exit of hundreds of thousands of Polish workers could spell disaster for horticulture.

Polish government advisers say up to 400,000 Poles could return home because job prospects are better there.

Jarman said: "The pound keeps dropping against the euro, so the Poles are working harder for less. It will mean shortages of workers. There's definitely been soft fruit rotting in the fields."

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