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    Union Plea for Farmers' Views on Wage Changes
05/04/07

NFU Scotland is urging farmers across the country to fill in a survey to help it assess the damage caused by the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (SAWB) decision last year to scrap age-related minimum rates of pay. The Union is campaigning for their reinstatement.

dipping

Until 1 January 2007, the minimum rates of pay for agricultural workers differed depending on an employee's age. However, to the dismay of the farming industry, these bands were removed by a decision of the Wages Board last year.

The scrapping of age-related pay bands for agricultural wages means that a younger worker who may be legally unable to carry out certain agricultural activities (such as driving a tractor) must be paid the same rate as an older worker. NFUS believes this will block the entry into the industry of younger workers and jeopardise existing jobs. The move contrasts with the National Minimum Wage, which has retained banding.

However, before leaving office ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary elections, Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie asked the Wages Board Chairman to reconvene the Board to reconsider the decision to scrap age-related pay bands. To reinstate them, NFUS must be able to demonstrate that their removal has had an adverse impact on employment decisions; hence the survey launched today to collect evidence.

The NFUS Wages Board survey is being issued to NFUS members and it is also available online at www.nfus.org.uk Alternatively, a copy can be obtained by phoning 0131 472 4023 or by emailing diane.burnside@nfus.org.uk

Chairman of the NFUS Legal and Technical Committee, Jamie Smart, said:

“The Minister's decision to ask the Wages Board to reconvene to look at age-related pay bands is hugely important. However, the only hope we have of over-turning the decision to scrap them is if we have clear evidence of the detrimental impact their removal has had.

“I would urge any agricultural employer to respond to the survey so we can get the best picture possible of what is happening on the ground.

“We need to move quickly on this as the Board meets in a fortnight and we want to present our initial findings then.

“We need to encourage the next generation of workers into our industry with good pay and conditions. However, the Board's decision last year has tied many farmers' hands as they simply can't financially justify hiring a youngster when they can get an older, fully qualified worker at the same rate. We now have an opportunity to right that wrong.”

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