Opinion Former Article

Unite calls on Lib Dems to back campaign to save agricultural workers' wages

FRINGE: SAVE RURAL BRITAIN
WHEN: 6.15pm, Tuesday, 21 September 2010
WHERE: Pan Am Bar and Restaurant, Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4AE.

Unite will hold a fringe meeting today (Tuesday, 21 September) at the Liberal Democrats conference to highlight the disastrous consequences the coalition government cuts will have on rural communities across Britain.

Unite is calling on grass roots activists at the conference to back the union's campaign to stop the Tory led agenda of scrapping the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) which protects hundreds of thousands of rural workers' wages and conditions.

Unite the union represents more than 150,000 rural and agricultural workers, leading the Workers Side of the Agricultural Wages Board.

The fringe will look at the wider issues affecting rural communities, but the main focus will be the wages board and all that is in jeopardy if the Tories get their way and abolish a body which has guaranteed minimum pay rates and working conditions for agricultural workers since the First World War.

Ian Waddell, Unite national officer for rural and agricultural workers, said:
"Even the Thatcher and Major governments didn't go as far as scrapping the Agricultural Wages Board, recognising that rural workers need protection if food supplies are to be secure.

"Unite finds it hard to believe that grass roots Lib Dems would support the abolition of a pay structure that was introduced by Lloyd George almost a century ago, which protects skilled farm workers in rural parts of Britain, many of which fall within Lib Dem constituencies.

"The government didn't even consult over their decision to scrap the wages board. They just announced their intention to sweep something away that has supported workers for generations. This government pledged to be fair, but where is the fairness to rural workers?"

Speakers at the fringe, entitled Save Rural Britain, include Unite's Ian Waddell, farm worker and Worker Representative on the Agricultural Wages Board, Steve Leniec, and Jeanette Longfield, leader of responsible farming group, Sustain. The Chair will be the Daily Mirror's Kevin Maguire.

ENDS

For further information contact Jody Whitehill on 07768 693956 or Karen Viquerat on 07768 931316.

Notes to editors:
Press welcome to attend.
Food and drink available at the event

EDM 754
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Agricultural Wages Board

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which external organisations she consulted prior to taking the decision to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB); and what consultation she plans to undertake on the arrangements to be put in place after the abolition of the AWB. [15745]

Mr Paice: There were no specific discussions with external organisations prior to the announcement by the Secretary of State, but views within the industry on the future of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) have been well known for many years, in particular those of the National Farmers' Union and Unite which represent employers and workers on the AWB. The abolition of the board will require amendments to primary legislation and therefore will be subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny and debate.

We intend to discuss with interested parties practical approaches to wage-setting in agriculture in the absence of the agricultural minimum wage and how workers can be best informed of their contractual rights after the AWB has been abolished.

More Articles by Unite - the union (T&G section) ...

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