Union brands Government shambolic and pernicious after peers dissent on axing AWB

Peers have slammed the brakes on government's plans to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board, which would hit the incomes of 150,000 employees, say union leaders.

The Lords who showed "dissent" at the committee stage yesterday, 16 January, to the Government’s amendment to scrap the board, won praise from Unite trade union. It branded the Government move as shambolic, underhand and pernicious.

"If the peers had not spoken up the amendment would have gone through ‘on the nod’," said the union. "But now a vote by the House of Lords on the board’s future has to be held at the report stage at the end of February or beginning of March."

National officer for agriculture Julia Long said: "We applaud the intervention of those peers that did not want a large swathe of the agricultural workforce reduced to poverty wages.

"The Government has behaved in a shambolic way in tacking an amendment, which will have a huge impact on the rural economy, on to a business bill - the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.

"Many peers are angry at both the government’s plan to reduce rural workers’ livelihoods and the underhand manner it is being done. A brake has been put on the government’s pernicious proposal.

"There is still time to mobilise enough parliamentary support to halt the AWB’s abolition which has set agricultural workers’ pay since the Second World War."

Unite said 60 per cent of responses to the Government’s consultation were in favour of retention. In its own submission, Unite argued that growers and the supermarkets that supply them were behind moves to abolish the board in order to drive down labour costs. 

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