Farm workers fear threat to Wages Board

28 October 1999

Farm workers fear threat to Wages Board

A FARMWORKERS leader has expressed his concern at reports that the Government will backtrack on its promise to keep the Agriculture Wages Board.

A report prepared for ministers asks them to consider scrapping the body which agrees conditions and wages for thousands of farm workers.

The report by the Government Performance and innovation unit comes on eve of crucial consultation on the boards future, reports Radio 4s Farming Today.

Barry Leathwood, national secretary of the Rural Agricultural and Allied Workers (RAAW) said he was “astonished” by the reports.

He said he believed the moves were led by civil servants who did not understand the need for the board since the introduction of the governments minimum wage.

Mr Leathwood said rates paid to regular part-time and full-time farm workers were above the minimum wage.

If the board was scrapped, levels would fall to the minimum wage rate, said Mr Leathwood.

Professor Sir John Marsh, the boards outgoing chairman, said it would have to show what additional benefits it could give to the state, in terms of improving the wage negotiating process, and industry performance.

He believed the boards wage level negotiations in an agreed structure were preferable to farmers setting individual rates.

Mr Leathwood fears farmers might use the current crisis as an excuse to try to get the board abolished in the consultation.

Prime Minister Tony Blair was a supporter of a union and Church campaign which stopped moves to abolish the board in 1993.

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