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Agricultural Wages Board Vote Out of Touch with Reality
2010-05-17

NFU Scotland is disappointed that once again the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (SAWB) has voted for an increase in the minimum agricultural wage above that which has been agreed for the National Minimum Wage (NMW) that operates in all other sectors of industry across the UK.

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After a vote, the SAWB agreed to propose a 2.8% increase in the minimum wage rate for those in their first 26 weeks of employment (£5.96 per hour). This compares with a proposed increase in the NMW of 2.2% (£5.93 per hour). A 3% increase is being proposed by SAWB for those employed in agriculture for more than 26 weeks (£6.51 per hour), substantially above what is being agreed elsewhere in the economy for wage settlements.

The SAWB proposals will now go out to consultation with a view to their introduction in October this year.

NFU Scotland’s Policy Director, Scott Walker said:
“As the economy seeks to recover from its deep recession, pay settlements elsewhere in industry hover between a wage freeze or possible cuts. With these proposals, the SAWB has shown itself, not for the first time, to be out of touch with reality.

“In keeping with recent SAWB awards, employers within the Scottish agricultural sector could find themselves paying a higher minimum wage than that which has been agreed for every other industry. The widening of the gap between the Agricultural Minimum Wage and the National Minimum Wage is simply not justifiable.

“We are especially disappointed that the SAWB has decided to break the link between the first 26 weeks of employment rate and the national minimum wage. For a few years the SAWB had recognised the competitive pressures faced by the Scottish soft fruit industry but now they seem to be of the belief that this sector can afford wage rates above the national minimum.

“These proposals now enter a period of consultation and we will be encouraging employers to contact the SAWB direct if they have concerns over these suggested rates.

“In the meantime, employers should bear in mind that these proposals only increase the minimum rates of pay. Most farm staff are paid above the minimum rates and, in these cases, businesses will be able to decide on wage increases based on the value of their staff and what their business can afford to pay. Farmers already recognise that they need to pay a competitive wage rate to attract staff and to keep them. That is why the setting of minimum rates is largely irrelevant for skilled employees as they will earn substantially more than these minimum rates.”

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