Defra consults on plans to abolish the AWB

Published on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 12:39
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

The NFU welcomed today's Defra consultation as 'the next step' towards the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board. Plans were first tabled in July 2010 as part of a raft of changes to 'arm's length bodies'.

However, progress has stalled since then and there have been a further two settlements made by the Board, the last of which came into force just two weeks ago.

As part of the abolition process, Defra is required to undertake a public consultation, which was formally announced today. It is understood the consultation will last four weeks and the NFU will be making a submission.

Why do we support the abolition of the AWB and what will it mean?

Chief economist Phil Bicknell said: "The NFU welcomes this next step in abolishing the Agricultural Wages Board and the long-anticipated consultation will give members the chance to give their views on the wages board direct to Defra.

"The Board remains an artefact of an era of industrial relations now been superseded by changes in wider employment legislation, not least the introduction of a national minimum wage in 1999. Farming is a business, yet the agricultural sector is unique in having employment and wage terms covered by separate legislation.

"Removing this separate structure seems entirely consistent with modern notions of workers' rights, industrial relations and business management.

"The reality is that few farm workers currently receive only the minimums set by the AWB. Average earnings for full time farm workers were 41 per cent above the industry minimums set by the AWB and few are paid near to the minimums set out in the order. Farmers now pay competitive rates to attract and retain skills, just like any other business.

"Change represents a challenge for everyone, but the NFU believes simplification must be the order of the day. The NFU already provides support to farmers and farm businesses on all aspects of managing employment relation and will build on this support to the farming community.

"We have also undertaken to deliver a new set of comparative indicators to help facilitate pay settlements, and this will create the opportunity to look at factors like labour markets, cost of living changes and comparative industries on a level that is more relevant for farming businesses and employees."

Source: ©NFU

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