Biggest news stories of 2013: The Abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board
NewsTuesday 17 December 2013
Here at Farming Ads, we are taking you through some of the biggest farming news stories of the year. And, these last 12 months really have been action packed for the farming industry. A number of hurdles have appeared throughout the year, from CAP reform to the Horsemeat Scandal, so we thought we would take a closer look at what has been happening in 2013.
One of the major talking points within the industry has been the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB). Some have seen it as a chance for farming to catch up with other sectors, whilst others have urged farm workers to get to know their rights amongst fears that they could end up earning less.
The AWB governed the terms and conditions of employment contracts within the farming industry. This included minimum pay rates for different categories of work, along with holiday and sick pay.
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Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill obtains Royal Assent
On the 25th April 2013, the The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill today received Royal Assent. This was the official bill that formally effected the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board. Although at the time this was announced it was not yet clear when the abolition would take place, it was believed to have been taking effect at the expiration of the Agricultural Wages Order at the end of September 2013.
This announcement sparked a number of debates from politicians, union members, farmers and journalists as they all discussed the impacts that the abolition of the AWB would have on farms and their workers.
The NFU supported the decision
The abolition of the AWB had been a long-standing policy ambition of the National Farmers Union and in April it spoke out to support the decision.
Meurig Raymond, the NFU Deputy President, said: “The abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board has been a long-standing policy ambition of the NFU and we are pleased that we’re in sight of this goal.
“Throughout our lobbying effort over the years, the NFU has consistently argued that it is outdated, particularly with the existence of a national minimal wage and working time regulations which apply to all employment.
“AWB abolition is a progressive reform and is a welcome step to freeing up the industry to reward workers appropriately for the valuable work they do on farms. At last, we can move on from the one-sized-fits-all approach that puts agriculture out-of-step with the rest of the UK workforce.
“Free from the order, this creates the opportunity for workers and employers to look more widely at the total employment package; to go beyond the basic hourly rate and consider skills, training, and salaries as negotiations between individual workers and individual businesses become the norm.”
Unite then had their say
On the 1st October, the AWB was officially abolished and the nation’s largest union - Unite - released a statement in which they criticised the decision.
Unite spoke of how 60 years of pay protection for 140,000 agricultural workers had ended due to the AWB being ‘vindictively’ axed.
Julia Long, the national officer for agricultural workers, said: “Our members in low paid rural industries are facing a vindictive assault on their pay and conditions from a multi-million pound industry backed by a coalition government of millionaires.
“But our members have the support of Britain’s biggest union and we would urge farm workers who don’t yet have that backing to join now.”
Unite then set up a Wages Watch, which was put in place to monitor any abuses of pay and employment conditions.
The NFU offered help to farm workers
The National Farmers Union also offered help to farm workers, by creating an employer information pack for members. It stated that it was keen to ensure as many farmers as possible were aware of the changes coming in.
NFU chief economist Phil Bicknell said: “Farm employers will be free to engage new workers on terms and conditions that comply with wider employment legislation, rather than being bound by what some would view as a rigid framework imposed by the old agricultural wages legislation.”
They stated that ‘the terms and conditions will now no longer be bound by, what some people view, as a rigid framework imposed by the older legislation’.
The NFU info pack can be found here.