Peers have put a brake on the government’s plans to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) which would hit the incomes of 150,000 agricultural workers in England and Wales.
Unite, the largest union in the country, welcomed the moves by those peers that showed ‘dissent’ at the committee stage yesterday (Wednesday 16 January) to the government’s amendment to scrap the AWB.
If the peers had not spoken up, the amendment would have gone through ‘on the nod’ – but now a vote by the House of Lords on the AWB’s future has 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.”
Unite is strongly campaigning against the AWB’s abolition and said that 60 per cent of responses to the government’s consultation were in favour of retention. In its own submission, Unite had argued that supermarkets and the growers, who supply them, were behind moves to abolish the AWB in order to drive down labour costs.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.