20 February 1998

Wage bill warning

A NATIONAL minimum wage will add millions to agricultural and horticultural bills, warns the NFU.

Adrienne Patterson, NFU legal adviser in the north-east estimated a minimum wage of £3.20/hour would cost the industries an extra £14m a year. If it was set at £3.50 the additional cost would be £43m.

"This could devastate the employment of casual workers and those businesses employing them," she told delegates at HortEx, the horticultural exhibition and conference held in Harrogate this week. Casual workers earn just over £3/hour, about £1 less than full- and part-time workers.

Coming months would see more legislation, she said. The government was also committed to implementing a working time directive.

Traditional farm practices could be in for radical changes. &#42