7 July 2000
MAFF silent on wages board plans

By FWi staff

GOVERNMENT officials are remaining tight-lipped about the future of the Agricultural Wages Board despite MPs turning their attention to the issue this week.

Farm minister Nick Brown said he did not want to pre-empt the findings of the current review which follows a consultation exercise drawing more than 250 replies.

Whether the board should or should not continue has certainly proved a contentious issue.

While the NFU and the Scottish NFU report that their members want the boards abolished, the Country Landowners Association, the Farmers Union of Wales and the Transport and General Workers Union are opposed.

But MPs have also turned their attention to the issue.

Labour MP Gavin Strang initiated a debate in the House of Commons late last Wednesday making the case for the government to retain the board.

“British farmworkers are skilled workers who deserve a decent rate for the job.

“But individual farmworkers are in an exceptionally weak negotiating position with their employers.

“That is why the Agricultural Wages Boards are so important.

“It is where both parties in the agricultural industry negotiate to reach an annual agreement on farmworkers pay and conditions,” he said.

The boards had not been over-generous to farm workers in the past, argued Mr Strang.

“Average pay in the agriculture, hunting and forestry sector is still 129 less every week than the average weekly pay in manufacturing,” he said.