Agricultural Wages Board ups pay by 2.8%

The NFU has described the outcome of this year's annual Agricultural Wages Board negotiations as "challenging", while at the same time calling on the coalition Government to abolish the board as soon as possible.

Following negotiations in Northamptonshire, the board has recommended that minimum hourly pay for grade 2 standard rate and above increase by 2.8% from October 1 2010, from £6.40/ hour to £6.58. Grade 1 agricultural minimum rate is proposed to rise by 2.4% from £5.81/hour to £5.95/hour.

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said: "The outcome of this year's negotiations will be seen as challenging for many farmers and growers. We appreciate that the cost of living is rising for farm workers as it is for employers and that they face the additional prospect of a penny rise in their national insurance contributions. We also want to make sure that the farming industry is seen as a stable and fair paying industry. The fact is that the sector has maintained employment levels whereas in most other parts of the economy they have fallen.

"Salaries must be market driven. The proposed award sits between inflation forecasts for CPI and RPI yet exceeds current levels of average pay growth across the economy. We expressed real concern to the Board about the pressures that many businesses are facing, particularly in the horticultural sector, one of the biggest employers, with several companies having gone out of business this year already.

"The AWB is an industrial relations relic that has no place in modern society. It serves no other purpose than to add cost and complexity to farmers and growers. As an example of absurdity, a farming business may employ workers in a vegetable pack house at national minimum wage yet be forced to pay the same workers an extra two pence per hour for harvesting the crops. I am therefore calling on the Coalition Government to scrap the board at the earliest opportunity."

1. Proposed pay award per hour for a maximum 39 hour week from October 2010 is:

Grade 1 - £5.95

Grade 2 - £6.58

Grade 3 - £7.24

Grade 4 - £7.76

Grade 5 - £8.23

Grade 6 - £8.88

2. Proposed changes to the Order will now be submitted for consultation and be confirmed by the Board on July 23 2010.

See more in Horticulture Week 25 June.

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