Agricultural Wages Board to be scrapped under proposed legislation

Edwin Poots
Edwin Poots

Proposals to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) in Northern Ireland have been put to a public consultation.

The AWB is responsible for setting of minimum rates of pay and certain terms and conditions for agricultural workers in the agriculture and horticulture sectors.

The consultation, which will run until 8 July 2021, is aimed at organisations, groups and people who are involved in agricultural activities.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots said: “Agricultural wage-setting and the Agricultural Wages Board stem from a time in the early 20th century when intervention was necessary to create a stable agricultural production and food supply in the context of two world wars and when there was less protection for workers.

“The agricultural and employment context has undergone significant change since the introduction of these mechanisms and various pieces of employment legislation have been introduced over the years to greatly improve the level of protection afforded to all workers, in areas covering minimum wage, holiday entitlement and sick pay.

“I therefore consider it an appropriate time to determine if government intervention in the agricultural labour market, by way of the agricultural wages legislation, remains necessary.”

He added: “Later this year, after the consultation, I will bring forward proposals to Assembly to consider abolishing the agricultural wages framework to bring agriculture within the same employment legislation applicable to employers and workers in all other sectors of the economy.

“This would simplify applicable legislation, reducing the regulatory and administrative burden on agricultural businesses and would place agricultural workers under the protections afforded by wider employment law and UK minimum wage rates.”

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