RURAL wages are set to be a key Labour campaign in May’s Staffordshire County Council elections in the wake of Government plans to scrap the Agricultural Wages Board.
Last week the House of Lords voted in favour of abolishing the AWB – a move which will affect 3,540 workers in Staffordshire according to the Labour Party. This includes 490 in the Stafford constituency, 1,100 in the Stone constituency and 30 in Cannock Chase.
The AWB currently gives a guaranteed wage level over and above the national minimum wage.
But MP Mary Creagh, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, who will be undertaking a rural tour of Britain to campaign to protect rural wages, said: "The Government's abolition of the AWB will lead to lower wages for farm workers and take £260 million out of village high streets over ten years.
“Thousands of low-paid farm workerswill be worried about their pay falling. We a need a One Nation plan for the countryside to tackle the rural cost of living crisis, protect buses and public services, and invest in rural jobs and growth."
The NFU has previously described the proposed abolition of the AWB as “necessary and correct” however.
NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said: “The AWB, while appropriate in the era it was established, has now been superseded by modern-day developments such as the national minimum wage.
“Agriculture is the last remaining industry to have a wages board, leaving it totally out of step with the rest of the UK workforce, including others in the rural economy.
“It is disappointing that scaremongering about the impact of the AWB abolition continues from some quarters. In reality, the vast majority of farmers and workers are already negotiating their own agreements over and above the minimum terms and conditions set out in the Agricultural Wages Order."