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:

If that was true, paying workers less would mean the cost of food would have come down, and it has not. There are pressures; we have been part of various studies and commissions on access to safe, healthy food and the implications on wages. There are links that need to be made. However, we are trying to say that a minimum standard needs to be built in, below which no one should fall. Alongside that, there should be a possibility for all the stakeholders in the industry to come together in the way that used to be done with the Agricultural Wages Board—we recognise that there may be equivalent ways of doing the same thing, as has been done in Wales. All of us who are involved directly in this industry, including the workforce—not excluded and shut out, but part of it—could come together to say, “How should we conduct ourselves so that people are treated fairly, and what happens if the industry is protected?”

I completely recognise that there are issues in the supply chain. Those players all have a part to play, but we need them around the table to discuss that, rather than the current system where workers are extremely isolated in that process, in way that they were not before. Before, their voices were part of a system, but now, in England specifically, they are not able to access that any more. That has weakened their position—their pay, sickness, holidays and so on. It has not created the improvements that it was claimed it would.

This is an opportunity. This was a very rushed abolition, as part of trying to get rid of red tape. The reality of it has not been a minimisation of red tape; it has just been a reducing of conditions, as we feared and said that it would be. If we really want people to choose to work in this industry and to feel respected in it, we need to do something about that. This is a fantastic opportunity to do just that.