Agricultural Wages Board scrapped

A BID to save the future of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) which sets pay rates for more than 150,000 rural workers in England and Wales has failed

Labour attempted to take the AWB out of the remit of the Public Bodies Bill which will allow Ministers to abolish a number of quangos, including the board.

They said scrapping the AWB would mean 152,000 rural and farm workers would see their pay and conditions get worse.

A vote on Tuesday saw the amendment to remove the AWB from the ‘powers to abolish’ list defeated by a majority of 77.

It follows a protest outside Parliament which saw dozens of rural workers turn out dressed as scarecrows to represent the ‘rural poverty’ they will face if their pay and conditions deteriorate.

Unite national officer, Cath Speight, said: “According to the Government’s own estimates, returning back to the statutory sick and annual leave payments alone, could potentially take over £9 million a year out of workers’ pockets. 

“This will be very unwelcome news to many of our members, who are already struggling to survive in the face of rising costs and higher food prices. Many have already been told by employers that should the AWB be abolished, their wages will be forced down - this is unacceptable and we cannot allow this to happen.

In the Commons, Labour’s Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) said the axing of the AWB would have ‘severe repercussions’.

But Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said the AWB needed reform 63 years after it was set up. He told MPs: “Back in 1948 there were hundreds of thousands of farm workers. Most of them were horsemen because that was the main force of traction. The world has moved on. It is not the forelock-tugging

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