Unite threaten strikes if Agricultural Wages board is scrapped

Horticulture union Unite has threatened strikes if the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales is scrapped.

The HTA and NFU have called for an end to the board, which sets wages for the industry.

The Agriculture Wages Board (AWB) is proposing a 2.8% increase for most agricultural workers and a minimum rate of £5.95 for grade 1 workers.

Unite's national officer for rural, agricultural and allied workers, Ian Waddell, said:

"This year's negotiations were particularly difficult as workers are facing huge rises in living costs, an increase in National Insurance, predicted rises in VAT, and cuts in benefits. 

"Against this background a rise of 2.8% will see most workers losing out in real terms. However, we are making real progress in building a skills framework based on qualifications and training in the Agricultural Wages Board and we hope that the industry will recognise that it needs to pay above the minimum rates to attract and retain skilled workers."

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said: "Salaries must be market driven. The AWB is an industrial relations relic that has no place in modern society. I am therefore calling on the Coalition Government to scrap the Board at the earliest opportunity."

The HTA said the settlement was "ludicrous" and called for the AWB's abolition.

Commenting on the call for the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board, Waddell said:

"The NFU should beware what they wish for. This country has enjoyed decades of settled and harmonious industrial relations in agriculture because of the role of the Board.

"If it was removed pay bargaining would be instantly fragmented and every farmer who employs people would have to become a wage negotiator overnight. The union would target weak employers or sectors where we could win pay rises and there is a real prospect of agricultural strikes becoming the norm for the first time since the 19th century."

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