Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:24 pm on 13th February 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Diana Holland:

First, there is a bit of a dearth of information. We have been constantly asking for that to be specifically looked at. We have done some research ourselves, however. Not long after the board was abolished, within the first year or two years, we surveyed all our members who had been covered by it. We were really shocked, although perhaps not surprised, to find that a huge proportion had had no pay rise since the Agricultural Wages Board had been abolished. Those who had had a pay rise, the vast majority, had had no say or discussion over that pay rise—it had just been introduced.

The employers we have talked to in the sector have said that they would find it helpful to have a process that could be relied on and about which everybody has said, “We’ve come to a conclusion,” rather than the pressure of having to negotiate individually or to find that the pressure is on and to think about what is fair in the circumstances. There is also exploitation in the sector—I will not run away from that—but I am not saying that every single person is deliberately trying to exploit. Sometimes there are other pressures.

There was also some survey work done in 2017 that compared Wales with England. There was a suggestion that protections in Wales meant that there was a 6% higher rate of pay overall. As I say, again, these are often small samples and figures, and we need to look more. We have had a chance, however, to talk to the employers in Wales. Some of the evidence from the employer representatives has made us concerned that there are employers in the sector—who previously followed a system that has been abolished—who are not aware of their responsibilities and who saw the national minimum wage as a voluntary mechanism rather than an absolute requirement. That might seem impossible, but it is a reality that came out in the discussions and the evidence. We feel that where the Bill talks about public money for public goods, that should also include ensuring that the workers are treated decently.

The minimum wage does not cover all the additional things. Career progression was provided, relating it to the jobs and roles that people have, allowances for having a dog, overtime and sick pay rates. All those details were included, but they are not in the national minimum wage, which does not take into account the particular considerations that the Agricultural Wages Board does. But that does exist elsewhere. That has been a massive loss to those people, without any demonstrable gain to anybody.