Speaking at a fringe meeting, Unite national officer for rural and agricultural workers Ian Waddell said: "Even the Thatcher and Major Governments didn't go as far as scrapping the AWB, recognising that rural workers need protection if food supplies are to be secure."
But AWB NFU negotiation board member Derek Jarman from Hayloft Plants said: "All other industries live in a marketplace where a worker is paid the market rate or greater. Why should agriculture and horticulture be any different?"
He added that the AWB was out-dated and set the minimum rates that duplicated the national minimum wage and created unnecessary paperwork.
"Unite has been instrumental in wasting large sums of public money by supporting the AWB and thank goodness the Conservative Government has had the sense and courage to get rid of it," said Jarman
Defra minister Jim Paice added: "There were no specific discussions with external organisations prior to the (announcement to scrap the AWB), but views within the industry have been well known for many years. The abolition of the board will be subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny and debate.
"We intend to discuss with interested parties practical approaches to wage-setting in agriculture in the absence of the agricultural minimum wage and how workers can be best informed of their contractual rights after the AWB has been abolished."