Ulster Unionist Agriculture Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, has welcomed a recent announcement by DEFRA to include the abolition of their Agriculture Wages Board (AWB) in a Bill currently going through Parliament, but has claimed that the move now puts Northern Ireland 'further behind than ever before' in its campaign to tackle needless farm bureaucracy.
The Upper Bann Representative said;
“My Party has long believed that the Northern Ireland Agriculture and Wages Board no longer serves any tangible purpose for farm workers, rather, it only acts as a major bureaucratic headache for the industry.’
“The recent decision by the Coalition Government to scrap their AWB by including its abolition in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will mean that the law governing agricultural wages will be harmonised with the rest of the economy. Unfortunately the current DARD Minister appears to show no such desire to help free the Northern Ireland industry from similar layers of red tape.’
“The Board was constituted under the 1977 Agriculture Wages Order and whilst it claims to guarantee fair pay and conditions for agricultural workers, this is irrelevant given the existence of the national minimum wage. The minimum wage covers such areas as the minimum rate of pay, sick pay, employee holiday entitlement as well as rest breaks and can quite easily be applied to the agriculture sector.’
“I strongly believe there is little need for a further layer of red tape when no other sector has a dedicated Wages Board.’