Ulster Unionist Agriculture spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson MLA has urged the Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA to scrap the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB).
“I am pleased to hear that the Minister has announced a review of the Board and urge that this review consider that the board be scrapped altogether and I am pleased that this is one of the options to be considered.
“In the Ulster Unionist Party’s ‘Programme for Government’ we recommended that the AWB be abolished ‘at the earliest possible opportunity’” said the Upper Bann MLA “as it’s continued existence is both irrelevant and unnecessary. The Board was introduced in 1948 however; many feel it is an irrelevancy given that the national minimum wage was created under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998.
“Indeed, the Boards in both England and Wales were scrapped last year following a vote in the House of Commons.
“Whilst the Agriculture Minister believes that the Board ‘protects the rights of low paid agricultural workers’, their rights, along with the rights of all workers, to receive a minimum wage are protected by the National Minimum wage and therefore to continue duplicate this responsibility is totally unnecessary. The National 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. There is little need for a further layer of red tape when no other sector has a dedicated Wages Board.
“The Ulster Farmers Union have previously called for the abolition of the AWB, and I understand that UFU view its existence as draconian, calling it an ‘unwanted quango costing the taxpayer an unnecessary expense.’ The Ulster Unionist Party agree and urge the consultation to
“The consultation period is open to submission until 25 January 2012, I encourage individuals and organisations to engage with the consultation before this closing date.”