CLA supports Government abolition of Agricultural Wages Board

The CLA has responded to a Defra consultation to support the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB).

Defra plans to disband the AWB, the statutory panel that sets minimum wages and other terms and conditions for agricultural workers, to bring the industry into line with all other areas of the economy.

CLA President Harry Cotterell said: "Farming today is very different from what it was when the AWB was first set up more than 60 years ago. The current system has become outdated and is no longer relevant to the structure of modern-day agriculture.

"Since the introduction of legislation governing the minimum wage, working time and paid holidays, the minimum terms prescribed by the AWB are no longer needed to protect agricultural workers.

"Farming is a specialist enterprise for which employers are keen to invest in the training and skills of employees, but it has been set apart as a special case for too long. In practice, many agricultural workers are not governed by the rates set by the Agricultural Wages Order (AWO) but are instead paid at rates that comfortably exceed it."

Mr Cotterell said the AWB does not take into account different income returns from the different sectors within agriculture, that rates set out in the AWO bear little resemblance to economic reality and that there is no recognition of the increasing impact of external agricultural services, such as contractors.

He added: "Rather than following guidelines, employers want the freedom to take on skilled people and pay them properly for their work."

Read more information on Defra's consultation on the future of the Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales which closes on 12 November.