26 February 1998
Countryside rally "exposes feudal landowners"

By FWi staff

LANDOWNERS and farmers are spending millions of pounds to stage the Countryside Rally on Sunday while paying farm workers poverty wages, the rural workers section of the T&G union said today.

Basic pay for agriculture workers is £160.85 for a 39-hour week, while casual workers are earning just £3.06 an hour, the union said.

The T&G will push for a major pay increase for agricultural workers at the Agricultural Wages Board negotiations on Tuesday, 17, March.

Rural Agriculture and Allied Workers national secretary Barry Leathwood said many of the landowners and farmers attending Sundays rally were doing so to defend their right to exploit the modern farm subsidies system, together with their right to maintain “feudal” systems of employment, land ownership and control.

“If farm pay had kept pace with farm subsidies which rose by 388% since 1987, employees would be earning a basic £484.09 a week. Instead they earn just £160.85, leaving many farm workers below the poverty line,” he said.

Mr Leathwood said: “We have great sympathy with small farmers for whom the current farming crisis jeopardises years of commitment to the land. But their plight is not shared by the most wealthy farmers,” he added.