31 March 2000

Wool board taken to tribunal over prices

A WELSH sheep farmer is taking the British Wool Marketing Board to an industrial tribunal over the price he receives.

George Lockett, who runs 500 ewes at Ty Coch, Bettws Garmon, Caernarfonshire, will claim at Cardiff on June 1 that, because the law forces him to sell his wool to the board, he should at least receive the equivalent of the national minimum wage for hours spent shearing.

"Regulations meant that we were technically working for the Board when my wife and I logged 106 hours and should have been paid £3.40/hour," says Mr Lockett.

"In fact the cheque represented £1/hour and we want the tribunal to order the difference to be made up."

A BWMB spokeswoman acknowledged the plight of hill farmers who had seen returns for all their products fall, but she insisted that they were paid the best wool price a very difficult, but improving, world market allowed.

"It is regrettable that the Board has been placed in a position where producers money has to be spent on the legal costs of defending the action."

Dafydd Morris, chairman of the Welsh Highland Shepherds Association, said he and many other hill farmers backed Mr Locketts case because it would show that farmers were working for far less than the minimum wage.