Eady told business contacts: "Many of you will have already experienced the issues surrounding the National Living Wage and the pay increases that were imposed recently. We at Delamore have always tried hard to recruit and retain good staff. For relatively small sums, we have been able to attract employees away from shops and hotels into our workplace for example. This has been a good policy for us and has given us a good feeling about what we do. The proposed regulations surrounding the National Living Wage (NLW) won’t allow us or others to continue this policy of trying to attract the best quality talent into the industry. We, like all of you, must also consider the potential for a closing gap between a basic worker and a more skilled worker now these new measures are being applied. Over the coming years, maintaining a clearly defined pay gap will become much more difficult to do for all of us, risking that the most skilled people will move to other less labour intensive sectors, where hourly pay is a much less relevant to the employer than it is for all of us.
"The recent changes have fundamentally changed the way in which we and we believe any other Agricultural or Horticultural business can possibly operate effectively in the future. The recent increases are only a small part of what is planned over the next 4 years, changes which represent roughly a 7% increase in wages per year. This at a time when inflation is at very low levels and when consumers want to pay less for their consumption and not more. To maintain profits, all businesses will either need to become much more efficient (if they aren’t already) or will see significantly reduced profits if they are lucky enough to have some. The "trade offs" proposed in NICS reductions and corporation tax benefits barely scratch the surface of the impact that will be felt by everyone utilising employees at close to the NLW.
"We have had discussions with NFU representatives and with the BPOA and have jointly agreed that we should encourage all of you to write to your local MP and make appointments to visit them to discuss your concerns around this issue should you feel strongly enough about it and if you recognise the impact it could have on your business. Our part in this is to distribute the information available to those we know might be affected."
Eady said contacts should get in touch with their local MP: "We believe the only way that any changes can be hoped for is with enough voices and the most direct route to representation is through the network of MP’s representing us all (in theory but time will tell). Our own experience of visiting our local MP was one of slight surprise on his part and of he having received little interaction with our sector. This is what we aim to address.
"I should also state that we, I am sure like you all, have no real issue with paying a decent wage to our highly valued workers. We have become used to paying above minimum wages since the AWB was used to control such matters in our sector. It is the speed of change and the rate of increases that have raised our concerns about the future of our industry and its ability to deal with the increases proposed.
"I really hope you will join us in making clear your objections to those determining the rates we must pay our staff and to those who clearly don’t understand the negative impact it will have on the UK growing sector."