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Farmworkers' bid for better pay

PUBLISHED: 16:13 11 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:59 22 October 2010

Farmworkers will be seeking substantial pay rises at Tuesday's Agricultural Wages Board negotiations to tackle the industry's skills shortage crisis.

Farmworkers will be seeking substantial pay rises at Tuesday's Agricultural Wages Board negotiations to tackle the industry's skills shortage crisis.

The Transport and General Workers' Union, the “plough to plate” trade union, will submit a claim for a rise in the standard hourly rate to £6 and for craft rates to rise to between £6.60 and £8.40.

Reports from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Lanta (the agricultural training body) have highlighted widespread skill shortages and recruitment difficulties.

The T&G's Chris Kaufman, who is the national secretary for agriculture, said: “Without a substantial increase in the basic hourly rate the industry will face recruitment and retention problems, leading to a slowing in the growth of productivity and therefore agricultural income.”

It is pressing for the standard hourly rate (£5.58) to be increased to £6, and for craft grades (currently from £5.91 to £7.53) to be increased to between £6.60 and £8.40.

The temporary entry (manual harvest worker) rate of £5.05 should be increased to £5.40 an hour, said the TGWU. This would put it just ahead of the national minimum wage, which increases to £5.35 in October. The union is also pressing for manual harvest workers to be automatically upgraded to the standard rate after 30 weeks' continuous employment.

In a submission to the AWB, the National Farmers' Union has “made it clear on several occasions that it was not the intention of the new grading system to leave people on the bottom grade indefinitely,” said Mr Kaufman, who will lead the four-strong delegation for the two days of talks.

“However, it is our belief that if the criteria for upgrading remain the same, a minority of workers will face the prospect of a career on a rate comparable to the national minimum wage,” he added.

Reduced working time would also help tackle the industry's skills shortage. “If the AWB provides a substantial reduction in working time then evidence suggests that this will prove attractive to workers and will prove beneficial towards the twin aim of increased retention and increased competitiveness in regard to new workers,” argues the TGWU.

It suggests a 38-hour basic working week and 25 days' holiday a year.

The submission also presses for the introduction of an industry-wide pension scheme, as was agreed in principle last year.


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