Horticulture businesses face struggle to meet rise in minimum wage

Horticulture industry figures have condemned the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) decision to increase the national minimum wage by 2.2 per cent for workers over 21 from 1 October this year.

HTA head David Gwyther. Image: HW
HTA head David Gwyther. Image: HW

HTA director-general David Gwyther said: "We're dismayed and disappointed that BIS is to impose an increase of this magnitude at a time when businesses are struggling to find ways for paying for any increase in costs. We see most areas of the economy having to impose pay freezes at best and many facing pay cuts. Our members find this rise unbelievable."

Wage rates from 1st October will be: £5.93 per hour for workers aged 21 and over (a 2.2 per cent increase on the current £5.80 rate); £4.92 per hour for 18-20-year-olds (1.9 per cent up on the current £4.83 rate); and £3.64 per hour for 16-17-year-olds (two per cent up on the current £3.57 rate).

Gwyther added: "From reports being received from members we are particularly concerned at the likely effects of the two per cent rise for 16 and 17-year-olds on the employment of younger people. This rise will discourage employers from taking on young people and giving them a start in their working life."

Agricultural Wages Board NFU ornamentals representative Derek Jarman said: "This sets the benchmark and makes it very difficult to argue why your more qualified staff shouldn't have a similar increase, otherwise differentials will be eroded."

Johnson's of Whixley joint managing director Andrew Richardson added: "It's unbelievably difficult when both the markets in which we are selling have falling prices.

"One way or another we have to cut costs and the increase will just mean we as growers will have fewer staff. We have already implemented all sorts of lean business techniques so the only way you can retain any profit is by having fewer people, so it really doesn't help."

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