It is a grim irony that, in this week that marks anti-poverty week, the Conservative-led government seems determined to do away with the Agricultural Wages Board. One of the key ways of reducing poverty is to ensure that people get a decent rate of pay for the work that they do, and that is precisely what the Agricultural Wages Board helps to do in rural Wales.
Many farms in Wales are family businesses with just one or two employees, and discussions about pay and conditions can be very tricky, so standard guidance from the Agricultural Wages Board on both pay and a whole range of conditions pertinent to agricultural workers, whose work schedules have to fit the seasons and weather, helps both farm businesses and the 12,000 farm workers in Wales. The FUW has expressed deep concern about the loss of the Board, and the difficulties that this will cause for both farm businesses and farm workers in Wales.
The Board sets wages for six grades above the national minimum wage, ranging from £6.10 to £9.14 an hour, which reflect the skills and physical effort involved in farm work, as well as setting a rate of pay of £3.05 an hour for under-16s, as they are not covered by the National Minimum Wage. Let’s be clear, abolishing the Board is not about cutting red tape, it’s about driving down wages and taking money out of the rural economy here in Wales, with the knock-on effects on local shops and communities.
That’s why in my new role as Shadow Minister for Wales, I am calling on the Secretary of State for Wales to persuade her government to drop plans to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board.