Strike delays farm subsidy payments

19 November 2001

Strike delays farm subsidy payments

By Alistair Driver

MINISTERS must act to avert suffering among farmers whose subsidies are being delayed by strike action, farmers leader Ben Gill has warned.

The National Farmers Union fears beleaguered producers will be unable to withstand “unacceptable delays” to support payments.

Industrial action affecting the new Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has already affected arable and beef subsidy payments due from mid-November.

Payments for agri-environment schemes are also being delayed by strike action at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Ex-Ministry of Agriculture staff took action after discovering that former Department for Environment staff at Defra receive higher salaries.

Mr Gill told Farmers Weekly that the union is demanding government action to minimise the impact of delays.

“We shall be asking the government to make sure all clearing banks know that payments are delayed and to explain the reasons,” he said.

The union also wants the government to pay interest worth 3% above the bank rate for payments delayed for more than 30 days.

The RPA took over full responsibility for administering payments from the Intervention Board and Defra service centres on Friday (16 November).

Industrial action has resulted in the new agency operating for just two days in some weeks since it was set up in October, Mr Gill claimed.

Despite the RPAs efforts to control the situation, the dispute is already having a detrimental effect on farmers, he said.

There may be valid staffing grievances but the whole issue could have been managed better. Defra must get this sorted out.

Members of the Public Service and Commercial Union have been taking industrial action since August.

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