Growers and industry bodies express concern about minimum wage hike

Industry bodies and growers have expressed concern about potential rises of the National Minimum Wage to £7 an hour, as proposed by Chancellor George Osborne this month.

The HTA and APL backed a rise, but ISS and the GCA said it might hit jobs.

Hayloft Plants director Derek Jarman said:

"A national minimum wage of £7.00 per hour effective from 1st October 2014 is too high and unaffordable in the current garden plant market. Taking the National Minimum wage from £6.31 to £7 is an increase of 69p or 10.9 per cent.

"However, for those of us who are used to paying the Agricultural Wages Order rates for new employees, such as seasonal workers, the removal of mandatory overtime at time and a half after thirty nine hours is a pleasant relief. We at Hayloft Plants averaged forty four hours per week last year which at 2014 NMW rates gives an average hourly rate of £6.67. So I would have to partly agree with George Osborne and say that an above inflation NMW rise is affordable for new employees/returnees who are not automatically entitled to overtime.

"Ask me for a figure and five per cent comes to mind which is twice the cost of living. The problem then comes with what to do with those who are paid much higher rates who traditionally expect a similar increase which definitely isn’t affordable."

BPOA chairman Ian Riggs said:

"People on the minimum wage have been in the same position as everyone else with low pay rises or decreases. We've all played our part in the recovery process by not seeking excessive demands. It's only fair as good tiems return that should be reflected in the National Minimum Wage award but we have to be very careful that we don't go too far."

IoH president Leigh Morris added:

"In short I'd say 'twin-edged sword'. An undoubted barrier to young and talented people coming into our industry is low wages and an increase in the minimum wage can only improve this, however, times are tight and many horticultural businesses survive on the basis that they can pay staff minimum pay. An increase in the minimum wage could make the difference to many businesses survival if they are already close to the line.

"Overall though, I'm in favour of an increase in the minimum wage, as I believe horticulturists at all levels are worth more than they are paid. We then have to try and increase the wider public perception of what plants and horticultural skills are worth, so that they will pay more for them, so making pay increases sustainable and developmental for UK horticulture."

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