Unite has today (Thursday 3 September) warned the Scottish government that thousands of agricultural workers will swell the ranks of the working poor after wage rates for 2015/16 were determined at the annual meeting of the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (SAWB).
From 1 October 2015, workers with less than 26 weeks continuous employment will be paid the national minimum wage rate of £6.70 per hour while workers with more than 26 weeks continuous employment will receive £7.24 per hour – 61 pence less than the Scottish living wage rate of £7.85 per hour.
Unite’s efforts on the SAWB to press home the case for lifting agricultural workers out of the low-pay trap by calling for the implementation of living wage rates were wholly rejected by the majority membership of the National Farmers Union (NFU) and independent representatives.
Unite regional officer Scott Foley said: “The Scottish government’s anti-austerity credentials have suffered a serious blow following the consolidation of the NFU ‘race to the bottom’ agenda for our agricultural sector.
“Cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead’s recent review of the SAWB - a model of employment relations best practice - opened the door again for NFU calls to scrap the board, while subsequently handing over leverage to keep wages suppressed for the next year."
Unite Scottish chair Scot Walker added: “It now looks clear that the cabinet secretary’s strategy for the employment rights of agricultural workers is contrary to the memorandum of understanding agreed by the first minister and the STUC in supporting the economy and tackling inequality.
“We are now in a position where instead of lifting more of our agricultural workers out of low pay and precarious employment, we are consigning them to the growing ranks of the working poor.”
For further information please contact Unite regional officer Scott Foley on 07810 157915 or Peter Welsh on 07810 157931.
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.