18 January 2002

7% pay demand

FARMERS are resisting farmworkers demands for a 7% pay rise which will take the basic rate for all employees to £5.10 an hour from July 1.

The NFU claims members will be unable to meet the demand, and suggests that it could result in the export of the UK horticultural industry because it relies heavily on casual labour.

The basic hourly rate for full and part-time agricultural workers is currently £4.77, while the rate for casual workers is £4.10. Barry Leathwood, national secretary of the agricultural branch of the Transport and General Workers Union, said the increase would help keep skilled workers within the sector. &#42

"There is already a skilled-worker shortage in some parts of the country, and we have to show the industry is interested in attracting skilled workers," he said.

On the issue of casual workers, Mr Leathwood said it was a peculiar idea that because someone worked less frequently they should be paid less. Information technology workers, who often work on short-term contracts, are paid considerably more than their permanent counterparts, he said.