MPs urged to continue support on AWB abolition

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Calling the AWB abolition ‘necessary and correct’, NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said that the time for a wages board was over.

“The AWB, while appropriate in the era it was established, has now been superseded by modern-day developments such as the national minimum wage,” he said. “Agriculture is the last remaining industry to have a wages board, leaving it totally out of step with the rest of the UK workforce, including others in the rural economy. This makes the decision to abolish it right and proper and will bring agriculture alongside other 21st century industries.

“The NFU has consistently called for the abolition of the AWB, which has become increasingly obsolete, generating an additional administrative burden. In particular, forcing a one-size-fits-all approach is unquestionably out-of-step for a farming industry that has seen increasingly significant variation in fortunes across sectors and across regions. The irrelevance of the AWB has been recognised in Parliamentary debates. There remains no fundamental argument why agriculture should be treated differently from any other business sector and why the National Minimum Wage structure should not prevail.

“It is disappointing that scaremongering about the impact of the AWB abolition continues from some quarters. In reality, the vast majority of farmers and workers are already negotiating their own agreements over and above the minimum terms and conditions set out in the Agricultural Wages Order. Market dynamics already dictate pay rates and this would continue after abolition. Indeed, demand for workers and skills in farming are expected to increase faster than in other areas of the economy. The latest myth to be touted relates to children working on farm. Drawing analogies between the exploitation of child labour in agriculture on a global basis to abolishing the AWB is nonsense – child labour without the AWB will be subject to the same controls as in all other UK sectors.

“Simple economics point to higher rather than lower wages in the long term. When adding in the savings to the public purse that abolition will deliver to the increased flexibility that AWB abolition will allow for both workers and farmers, it is clear that intervention in the farm labour market is no longer justified or beneficial – for all concerned.”

Notes to editors:

  1. MPs will consider AWB as part of the Department for Business Industry and Skill’s Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill’s report stage on Tuesday April 16 2013