Stop the Abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board!

This page is aimed to stop the closure of the Agricultural Wages Board

All comments welcome, and helpful suggestions please send to

Letter to
Jim Paice (Minster for Agriculture & Food)

Agricultural Wages Board

Caroline Spelman SoS DEFRA

DEFRA announce abolition of AWB this month (along with the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the Sustainable Development Commission - 'a reciipe for disaster'). Unite's response to AWB closure. Mirror comment. Scottish Toies want SNP to follow


The AWB was set up just after the war, as an Act of Parliament, along with many other Wages Boards to help regularise and standardise the relations between employers and employees.

The Wages Boards were nearly all done away with by the Thatcher government. Only Agricultural Wages Board remained as it was widely recognised that the power relations between farm workers and farm owners was so unequal, with workers spread hither and thither and often totally dependent on their owners for all manner of things, that onlu legal agreements were satisfactory in the modern age. The AWB was also saved because the employers federation - the National Farmers Union, also wanted it

The Wages Board determine annually what is a decent rate of return for work. The two main sides in the industry - NFU for the farmers and the Ruraal Agricultural and Allied Workers (RAAW) sector of Unit the Union for the employees meet annually, along with a group of lawyers. They, and various 'independents' determine the structure and wages.. It is a curious legal process, but one that has worked for over 60 years, enabling many employers and employees to get on with the jobs they can do - work the land. AWO 2009 full pdf Short version pdf Business Link Guide

There are two main aspects of any Agriculuiral Wages Order

Grade 1 - Initial Grade

The determination of a minimum wages for all unskilled workers (level1). At present this is 1p above national minumum wage, although it is going up to 2p following this year’s agreement. It is this which the mainly Horticultural part of, NFU object most to. When we say "horticulutral", don't get the idea that htese are glorified allotment holders. Think fields two miles long with tractors ploughing with GPS sysems and employing loads of termporary workers picking the vegetables on house - sized trucks going over the fields. These are modern day plantation owners.They say it adds to big a burden to an already tight market situation – growing fruit and vegetables have never received direct CAP support. Although quite how paying workers 1 pence or two above the minimum wage is so burdensome, you would need need to ask questions about the role of retailers and supply chains. If our fruit and veg is that vulnerable we should be asking a lot of other questions - ike – why is the last and best vegetable research station in UK closing? (more about Wellesbourne closure)

Grades 2- 6 (Standard, Lead, Craft Supervisory and Management)

2, The other part and much more substantial part of the WBO is that relating to all the skilled workers, the vast majority of the permanent workforce in the UK. The skills levels go from 2 to 6, dependent of what recognised skills and experience workers have. Details of who gets what from Annex 2 AWO 2009, & Working Party on Skills.

The element of skills has been present throughout as a way to encourage workers to develop themselves, and has been encouraged by the development and delivery of qualifications through the FE College system and attendant skills councils and awarding bodies. The incentive for workers is that they can better themselves and be duly rewarded. Just when we need a new generation to come to the land in order to farm “more sustainably”, we are throwing away the incentive mechanism to do so.

When we talk of “sustainable”, we mean progress balanced between environmental, economic and social concerns. This government has said it wishes to promote sustainable “(DEFRA use the term 4X in their 'recipe for disater' closure announcement ), yet clearly here they are smashing up the main farm framework for social improvement on the land. Lantra, the land based skils coulcil, recently launched their skills strategy - "to ensure a profitable and sustainable agricultural industry for the future."

Fatal Blow

A particular example is that promoted by farmworkers union, (RAAW sector of Unite) in an attempt to decrease the number of fatal accidents in farming. You are twice as likely to be killed working on a farm than any in other UK workplace. We in discussion with NFU, HSE, relevant Skills Councils and Awarding Bodies, developed a suite of VQ’s at managerial level, supervisory level and supervised level, to promote good safety practices on farms. These H&S vocational qualifications (learning materials) were linked to the pay grades, so NFU were contributing to the process, making it a unique mechanism for encouraging safer work.

Click for more details on how Standard, Lead and Craft workers can benefit from H&S qualifications