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Stormont: Hands off our Agricultural workers! Defend and expand the Agricultural Wages Board!

Agricultural field workers are often subject to the most oppressive conditions of employment. Many are migrant workers suffering from linguistic barriers, lacking access to basic services and supports and whose legal status is exploited by unscrupulous bosses.

Because of the small scale of operations, the high turnover rates and the often temporary nature of employment it can be very difficult for agricultural workers to organise collectively to win decent pay increases or defend basic rights. For all these reasons– they need the additional protection provided by the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB).

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has argued for the abolition of the AWB ever since its formation in 1909 – they want to limit the pay and conditions of heavily exploited and vulnerable agricultural workers.

On 20th January 2021 DAERA Minister Poots, a member of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, made public his intention to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) in Northern Ireland, following on from a decision to do likewise by the Tories in 2013. Unite fears the abolition of the Board, the last private sector sectoral bargaining body in Northern Ireland will give the green light to agri-food bosses and the big farmers for a post-Brexit race-to-the- bottom on workers’ pay and conditions.

Protecting vulnerable workers and reducing poverty

The AWB also plays a vital role as one of the few bodies to provide basic protections to migrant workers. Sadly, the trafficking of agricultural field workers in Northern Ireland has been horrifically revealed over recent years – we don’t need to lose this protection!

Protecting workers

The experience in England since the abolition of the AWB there has confirmed Unite’s warnings: agricultural field workers and those working on farms whose pay increases were not dependent on the national minimum wage had wage increases which fell behind the average. Rates for overtime and other premiums have simply disappeared. Workers have borne the brunt of the impact of the abolition of the AWB in England. The same will happen in Northern Ireland unless this decision is reversed.

The AWB plays a vital role in putting a floor under

  • Farm worker incomes;
  • Piece rates;
  • Overtime rates;
  • Apprentice’s pay; and,
  • Sick pay and entitlements.

Benefiting farm families as well as agricultural workers

Abolishing the AWB also threatens to remove protections for many small farmers and their family members who are forced by economic necessity to work on other farms or elsewhere in the agricultural industry.

Unite wants to see the AWB retained and its role and remit expanded to better improve the lives and hopes of agricultural workers in Northern Ireland. It’s not too late to reverse this decision – just as we did in 2008. The decision will go to the Stormont Executive and we are calling on all parties to make clear that they will use their Ministerial vote to veto the threat to the AWB.

You can play your part in helping our campaign!

Send a message to your MLA demanding their party stands up for agricultural field and farm workers’ and uses their Ministerial veto this proposal.

Use the look up tool to find who your local MLAs are and send them all a clear message that you back our campaign. Don't worry if you're not an agricultural or farm worker, you can still send your MLA a message. Feel free to change it as you wish.

Say it loud, say it clear, Stormont hands off our agricultural field and farm workers! Defend and expand the Agricultural Wages Board!

Many thanks for your support and do give us your feedback:

Email: [email protected]
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