Young people will find it very hard to get work on farms if moves by the Scottish Agricultural Board to change agricultural pay structure are successful, according to NFU Scotland.
The Transport and General Workers Union in Scotland has, however, hailed the planned ending of different pay rates according to age as a victory.
At present, the minimum agricultural wage is split into five bands (under 16, 16, 17, 18 and 19 and over). However, the Scottish Executive’s legal opinion indicated that that this flouted new age-discrimination laws, despite the fact that the national minimum wage has retained its age-band structure.
The new pay deal would give 16 and 17 year olds a minimum increase per hour of over £2.00. Those under 18 would, as with other farm staff, be entitled to £5.70 an hour after a qualifying period of 26 weeks on the national minimum wage of £5.35.
The intended new pay structure will now go out for consultation with a confirmatory meeting planned for November 15. The NFUS said it could not accept farming being the only industry forced to pay a standard minimum wage, irrespective of age.
Jamie Smart, chairman of the NFUS Legal and Technical Committee said the decision to scrap age bands is a ‘nonsense’ given the limitations of the work which can be undertaken at younger ages — highlighting the wages board is a ‘relic of a bygone era’.
“With a new standard wage rate, farmers will question how they can justify hiring younger employees, who are legally restricted in the work they can do,” he said.
“This is yet another example of the wages board being completely divorced from the reality of agricultural work.
This decision is a cop-out by the Board. It is based on political correctness, with the Board lacking any backbone to defends its own legal opinion and younger workers will suffer as a result,” he added.