31 March 1995

£4.35 rise – still short

of industrial averages

By Peter Bullen

FARMINGs wage bill will rise by £40m a year if the Agricultural Wages Board ratifies its 3% pay award for farmworkers on April 16.

The £4.35 increase will bring the minimum wage up to £149.44 for a 39-hour week. At 3% the rise is just below the current 3.4% inflation rate but well below the 4.9% awarded last year which added nearly £55m to the industrys costs.

Locked in discussion

The AWB was locked in discussions for two days before the award was agreed on the combined vote of the independent members and NFU negotiators.

John Nullis, who led the NFU negotiating team, described the outcome as a "realistic award."

"We entered the negotiations mindful of the difficult situation in different sectors of the industry," he said. "We took into account the long term pressures on the industry, especially with the impending impact of the GATT world trade deal and the need for individual businesses to be able to re-invest in the future."

The £4.35/week is a long way from the £84/week extra claimed by the farmworkers to bring their average earnings up to the £303/week level of industrial workers.

Their calls for a four-hour cut in the working week and four days extra paid leave a year were also unsuccessful.

But farmworkers union leader Barry Leathwood scored a significant success by blocking NFU attempts to allow horticulturalists and intensive livestock farmers to opt out of the new pay award. He persuaded the AWB that such action would be illegal.

NFU attempts to introduce more seasonal flexibility were also blocked. If ratified, the 3% award will start from June 4 and cover about 180,000 workers in England and Wales with pro rata increases for other full time grades (whose current minimum rates range from £166.85 for craftsmen to £195.83 for grade one workers) and for casual and seasonal workers. &#42

&#8226 3% rise from June 4.

&#8226 Or extra £4.35 to take minimum wage to £149.44 for 39-hour week.

&#8226 Pro rata rise for all grades and casual/ seasonal workers. Cost to employers in England and Wales – extra £40m/year.