Labour raise fears over wage squeeze in countryside.
No Christmas cheer for squeezed county as government announces abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board
Labour councillors and MPs in Northumberland have joined together to condemn the government decision to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board which acted as a ‘safety net’ for wage levels in the countryside.
In a decision, announced only hours before Parliament’s Christmas recess, the Conservative led government announced a decision to scrap the AWB which will, by the government’s own estimates, remove £240m from farm workers over the next 10 years.
The abolition of the AWB will mean employers in the farming sector will be able to pay workers below the National Minimum Wage (NWM) and it is feared it will impact on young people disproportionately. At the moment, the AWB protects wage levels for around 140,000 workers in the agricultural sector nationwide.
The Trade Union, Unite, which represents a majority of workers in the agricultural sector, said “Scrapping the Board will save the government a paltry £50,000 per year yet it will see millions of pounds that ought to be workers' wages transfer to the wealthy retailers and big employers’.
The government decision was welcomed by the National Farmers Union who labelled the AWB as ‘outdated and an administrative burden’.
Labour group leader Grant Davey slammed the decision
“It’s typical that the Government sneaked out this announcement just hours before Parliament shuts down for Christmas, ignoring the strong views against abolition expressed in the consultation. David Cameron’s out of touch government has delivered a bitter blow to the rural economy just before Christmas and to thousands of low-paid farm workers who will be worried about their pay falling. We’re worried that this will have a significant impact on Northumberland’s countryside with more money being sucked out of the rural economy and our towns’.
Notes for Editors