Unite members head to Westminster to make the case for 150,000 farm workers

Tim Lezard

Agricultural Wages Board demoFarm workers are today briefing peers in the House of Lords ahead of crucial vote that could affect the livelihoods of 150,000 people in England and Wales.

The Unite members are taking action over government plans to scrap the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) that sets minimum rates of pay and other conditions covering sick pay, holiday entitlement and tied housing, despite a majority of those who responded to a consultation supporting the AWB’s retention.

Steve Leniec is a farm worker from Oxfordshire who chairs Unite’s rural and agricultural workers committee. He said: “The government is calling the AWB a relic from a bygone era. In reality it has been an effective mechanism for collective bargaining since 1948, has ensured the good industrial relations vital in an industry where employer and employee work side by side, and has safeguarded in law the pay and conditions for hundreds of thousands of rural workers.

“These workers will see their wages plummet if the AWB is abolished, just at a time when we need to support a rural living wage and ensure our nation’s food security with pay and conditions that will attract more young people into the industry.

“We are hoping that the Lords will support the AWB at the Report stage tomorrow and keep the hopes of rural communities alive.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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