UK: Union leaders celebrate as peers put brake on plans to scrap Agricultural Wages Board

Government plans to scrap the AWB suffered a setback in the House of Lords this week

Government plans to scrap the AWB suffered a setback in the House of Lords this week - Credit:

Union leaders are celebrating this week after peers put a brake on the Government’s plans to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB).

Unite said the Government’s proposals would hit the incomes of 150,000 agricultural workers in England and Wales and welcomed the moves by those peers that showed ‘dissent’ at the committee stage on Wednesday to the Government’s moves to scrap the AWB.

Now a vote by the House of Lords on the AWB’s future is set to be held at the report stage at the end of February or beginning of March.

Unite national officer for agriculture Julia Long said: “We applaud the intervention of those peers that did not want a large swathe of the agricultural workforce reduced to poverty wages.

“The government has behaved in a shambolic way in tacking on an amendment that will have a huge impact on the rural economy onto a business bill - the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.

“Many peers are angry at both the Government’s plan to reduce rural workers’ livelihoods and the underhand manner it is being done.

“A brake has been put on the government’s pernicious proposal. There is still time to mobilise enough parliamentary support to halt the AWB’s abolition which has set agricultural workers’ pay since the Second World War.”

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Unite said that 60% of responses to the Government’s consultation were in favour of retention. It argued that supermarkets and the growers who supply them were behind moves to abolish the AWB in order to drive down labour costs.

A spokesperson for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said: “The Government is committed to abolition of the Agriculture Wages Board, which it believes is in the long term interests of the industry.

“It will free numerous small farmers from unnecessary burdens while keeping farm workers, like all other workers across the economy, well protected by the National Minimum Wage and other employment legislation.”