Unions have criticised ministers for refusing to discuss proposals to save the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB), during the final debate on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill last night (16 April.)
The AWB for England and Wales brings together employers and unions to set wages and conditions for 150,000 agricultural employees. It was abolished, without a vote after the government guillotined a debate in the House of Commons yesterday.
TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: "This Bill is a direct attack on agricultural workers and has been sped through the House without any proper debate on its likely impact.
"The government's own figures show that getting rid of the AWB could see wages in the agricultural industry fall by £13 million, with many farm workers and their families strongly relying upon it to stay above the breadline.
"We are also worried that removing the minimum sick pay entitlements set by the board will mean that farm workers will return from illness before they are properly fit. Agriculture accounts for a quarter of all workplace deaths with 41 people killed last year alone."
Julia Long, national officer for agriculture for the Unite union described the AWB as having "been effective in the last 65 years in protecting the incomes of some of the lowest paid workers in the country."
"Supermarkets and the growers, who supply them, are behind the Agricultural Wages Board’s abolition proposal as they want to drive down workers’ wages to poverty levels”, she said.