31 March 2000

4.7% pay rise – job losses

By Jonathan Riley

THE NFU has warned that the 4.7% pay rise imposed by the Agricultural Wages Board last week will cost the farm industry an extra £40m a year and will result in more job losses.

The rise – negotiated during pay talks with the AWB and the Transport and General Workers Union (T & G) – means the basic rate for full and part-time workers in England and Wales will increase from £4.36 to £4.57 an hour. Two per cent of this rise is to offset the removal of a time-and-a-quarter holiday rate currently received by full-time workers, due to an EU directive requiring that workers receive equal holiday pay.

The NFU expressed dismay that pay for casual workers has been increased from £3.69 to £3.73, a figure above the national minimum wage rate which will be increased to £3.70 later this year.

But Barry Leathwood of the T & Gs Rural, Agricultural and Allied Workers union, said the bulk of farm labourers are employed by the biggest farms, which have the resources to pay.

"We won the argument at the wages board by convincing the independent members that the largest 20% of the farms in England and Wales employing labour can well afford to pay a decent wage.

"When farmers had record profits in the mid-1990s they did not share them with the workers, and we were determined to ensure that the workers did not suffer in these rather more difficult times," said Mr Leathwood.

The new rates will come into force on June 4. The standard working week remains at 39 hours. The TGWU had wanted a minimum rate of £5 an hour, reduction in the working week to 35 hours, and a contributory pension scheme.

Casual workers will get a basic rate of £3.73/hour from June 4.