Pensions call to AWB by workers
FARM workers are calling for a cut in the working week, full pension rights, paternity leave and minimum wage parity with manual and industrial workers as part of their annual wage claim.
The draft submission, lodged with the Agricultural Wages Board before Christmas, argues that the farm workers minimum wage (£155.04/week) is far lower than the average industrial wage (£320/week), and that employers can afford a pay a substantialrise.
Despite the BSE crisis, the TGWUs Rural, Agricultural and Allied Workers branch claims farm incomes for 1996 will top £3.5bn.
Barry Leathwood, national secretary, argued an inflation-matched rise was not an option. "Rents and fuel charges have risen substantially higher than inflation, and these two areas impact heavily on low paid workers."
From 39 to 35 hours
Mr Leathwood said he hoped employers would back a four-hour cut in the working week (from 39 to 35 hours), which is now official Trades Union Congress policy.
And he stressed the need to set up a contributory pension scheme for all workers in the light of the bleak future of State pensions. "At present, many farm workers have nothing to look forward to. Voluntary pension schemes simply have not worked and we hope by June to have a scheme."
Figures produced in a Royal Agricultural Society of England report last year showed that only a third of farm workers were likely to have pensions.
One of the largest events to support the agricultural pay claim will be a rally in Ely, Cambs on Feb 15, while a national lobby of the AWB will take place on Mar 18.
John Nullis, chairman of the NFUs employment and education committee, said the union would await MAFFs farm income figures; which are expected by the end of the month.
Mr Nullis said farmers in the beef and dairy sectors had been badly affected by the BSE scare, while both potato and more recently cereal growers were facing lower prices.
The TGWUs full wage claim will be lodged with the AWB by the end of February, and the NFU has to respond by Mar 10.