Wednesday 10 October 2012

Northern Ireland Keeps Agricultural Wages Board

O’Neill announces retention of the Agricultural Wages Board in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA has announced that, following a public consultation, she has decided to retain the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) structure.

The AWB sets minimum rates of pay and conditions for workers in the agriculture and horticulture sectors, including a large proportion of migrant workers.

Making her announcement, the Minister said: “In November last year I launched a public consultation on a Review of the Agricultural Wages Board structure and following its conclusion I gave careful consideration to the responses received. I believe the decision I have now reached is in the best interests of agricultural workers here.

“As I have said previously, I firmly believe that the AWB structure is a valuable forum for wage negotiations and importantly is used as a benchmark for the wider agri-food industry.

“The AWB guarantees fair pay and conditions for agricultural workers. It will now continue to protect the rights of low paid agricultural workers, including migrant workers, here by ensuring enforceable employment conditions which I believe can only have a positive impact on the sustainability of the rural economy. "

In conclusion she added: “As we try to grow the economic potential of the agri-food sector in these difficult times, it is essential that workers in this industry are both protected and have the skills, not only to help the sector flourish but to encourage others to consider a career within it.”

Scotland and Wales also looks set to keep the Agricultural Wages Board, meanwhile Unite (Farm & rural workers union) continue with their campaign to maintain the Agricultural Wages Board in England.

The AWB not only sets the rate for farm workers but often acts as a bench mark for other rural workers. Presently rural workers earn on average £4,000 a year less than their urban work colleagues.