Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:46 pm on 25th October 2018.

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Diana Holland:

We think a clause should be added that specifically recognises the need to protect standards for agricultural workers. Sustain is supporting an amendment, which we would be happy to be attached to, on the kind of protections that the former Agricultural Wages Board provided. We recognise that this is a framework Bill and there are different ways of expressing things, but in the absence of anything at all we would want something very specific to be added that would recognise that matter. This is meant to be dealing with Brexit, and the Treaty of Rome specifically says in article 39 that there should be a fair standard of living for workers in agriculture.

We have seen with the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board in England a deterioration in pay. You would expect us to say that; we are trade union representatives. We have collected evidence from our membership that in the year after the abolition, 56% of those surveyed had not had a pay rise. Of those who had had a pay rise, 82% had had it imposed, and of those who had not had a pay rise, one third had gone to their employer to ask for a pay rise and been refused. A series of people formerly covered by the Agricultural Wages Board in England have had their pay completely frozen until the national minimum wage catches up with it, whereas in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that is not the case.