12 January 1996

TGWU aims for minimum hourly rate of £4.15

By Shelley Wright

FARMWORKERS in England and Wales are demanding an 8% wage rise, pushing the minimum hourly rate up to £4.15.

The Transport and General Workers Union has put together an eight-point claim ready for its annual negotiations with the Agricultural Wages Board, which begin on Mar 19.

The unions primary aim is to ensure farmworkers wages are brought into line with those paid in other production industries. The first step towards this is to increase the minimum hourly wage from its present £3.83 to £4.15.

The other main objective is to secure a contributory pension scheme for all workers covered by the AWB. Barry Leathwood, national secretary of the TGWUs agricultural section, says farm workers, like most low-paid workers, rely almost entirely on the state pension.

"This has been eroded so seriously in recent years that we think there must now be pension provision by employers for their farmworkers," says Mr Leathwood.

The TGWU also wants:

lThe definition of casual workers changed so they become permanent after 12 weeks of employment rather than the current 20 weeks.

lSimplification of the AWB age-bands with the minimum adult rate payable at 18, 90% of this rate at 17, 80% at 16 and 75% at 15.

lA cut in the current 39-hour working week to 35 hours.

lA rise from 21 days to 25 days holiday a year.

lDouble time for Sundays or public holidays and a day off in lieu when public holidays are worked.

"Though there are employers who are valuing their skilled and committed workers by paying them more than the going rate, plenty are reluctantly paying the minimum, and under-paying bosses are not a rare and endangered breed," says the union.

It adds that a successful harvest last year and predictions that farm income figures, due shortly, could show an increase many times greater than inflation, mean that farmers have the resources to pass on to their workers. &#42