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19/11/2012 - British rural workers fight to fend off the Governments low pay assault

As far back as July 2010 the Government through DEFRA announced its decision to abolish the 60-year-old Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales (AWB), along with the 15 Agricultural Wages Committees and the 16 Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees in England.

The Government would like us to believe that by abolishing the Agricultural Wages Board it will bring British agricultural workers under paltry national minimum wage legislation as well as, in their words, "simplifying employment practices and remove unnecessary regulatory burden".

DEFRA also believes that it is difficult to justify the continued existence of the 15 Agricultural Wages Committees and the 16 Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees. Therefore these thirty one regional bodies will be abolished.

British rural workers along with a tractor set up camp on Parliament Square when hasty   consultations ended on 12 November last week in protest at the Government plans. Farm workers came from all over England and Wales to demonstrate on the last day of these government consultations which only started on 16th October this year.

Rural farm worker Steve Leniec said: "We will not be silenced over this. We will shout it from the rooftops. Without the AWB to negotiate pay and fair housing, wages will fall to the lowest legal wage possible.
"Bad employers will see this as the opportunity to cut pay and raise housing costs."


Unite the Union has accused ministers of rushing through plans to scrap the board, which will mean a major shift of wealth away from those who work on the land to those who own it and cast the shadow of poverty.

National officer for rural and agricultural workers Julia Long said: "Even the Thatcher and Major governments didn't go as far as scrapping the AWB, recognising rural workers are very vulnerable and need protection.

"But this government is speeding through a mock consultation, possibly flouting the law, so that they can abolish a pay structure that was introduced almost a century ago."

Before the AWB was created there were bitter strikes and battles as British workers fought for better wages and conditions. The Welsh government also opposes the abolition.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has also announced the results of the Government’s review of its arms length bodies. The result of most of the decisions below will no doubt see the same "experts" backsides on the same chairs but under another name with higher salaries. Here is the full list of how DEFRA’s bodies are affected:

 

  • Advisory Committee on Organic Standards - Abolish body and functions.
  • Advisory Committee on Packaging - Reconstitute as a committee of experts.
  • Advisory Committee on Pesticides - Reconstitute as a committee of experts.
  • Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment - Retain on grounds of performing a technical function which should remain independent of Government.
  • Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board - Under consideration. Initiate debate with industry about future of body, including non-public sector options.
  • Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees (x16) - Abolish bodies and functions, as previously announced.
  • Agricultural Land Tribunal  - Under consideration.
  • Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales - Abolish and bring agricultural workers under national minimum wages legislation, as previously announced.
  • Agricultural Wages Committees (x15) - Abolish bodies and functions, as previously announced.
  • Air Quality Expert Group - Reconstitute as a committee of experts.
  • Animal Health and Welfare Strategy England Implementation Group - Abolish body and functions.
  • British Waterways - Abolish as a public corporation in England and Wales and create a new waterways charity similar to a National Trust.
  • British Wool Marketing Board - Retain on grounds of performing a technical function which should remain independent of Government.
  • Broads Authority - Retain.
  • Commission for Rural Communities - Abolish and reinforce Government’s capacity to reflect rural interests in policies and programmes, as previously announced.
  • Committee on Agricultural Valuation - Abolish body and functions, as previously announced.
  • Commons Commissioners - Abolish body and functions, as previously announced.
  • Consumer Council for Water - Under consideration.
  • Covent Garden Market Authority – Retain.
  • Darwin Advisory Committee - Reconstitute as a committee of experts.
  • Environment Agency - Retain and substantially reform.
  • Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards -  Abolish body and functions.
  • Farm Animal Welfare Council - Reconstitute as a committee of experts.
  • Food from Britain - Abolish body and functions.
  • Forestry Commission -Retain and substantially reform.
  • Gangmasters Licensing Authority - Retain on grounds of impartiality.
  • Independent Agricultural Appeals Panel - Retain on grounds of impartiality.
  • Inland Waterways Advisory Council - Abolish body and functions, as previously announced.
  • Internal Drainage Boards (x 160) - Retain and substantially reform.
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee - Retain on grounds of impartiality.
  • Marine Management Organisation – Retain.
  • National Forest Company – Retain.
  • National Parks Authorities (x9) - Retain but review governance and increase accountability.
  • National Standing Committee on Farm Animal Genetic - Reconstitute as a committee of experts.
  • Natural England - Retain and substantially reform.
  • OFWAT – Retain.
  • Pesticide Residues Committee - Reconstitute as a committee of experts.
  • Plant Varieties and Seeds Tribunal - Under consideration.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Kew – Retain.
  • Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution - Abolish body and functions as previously announced.
  • Science Advisory Council - Retain on grounds of independence, and broaden remit to strengthen co-ordination of all Defra science advice.
  • Sea Fish Industry Authority – Retain.
  • Sea Fish Licence Tribunal - Under consideration.
  • Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee -  Abolish body and transfer functions to Department of Health.
  • Sustainable Development Commission - Under consideration. Future being considered in light of decision to withdraw funding at end of 2010/11, as previously announced
  • Veterinary Products Committee – Retain.
  • Veterinary Residues Committee - Reconstitute as a committee of experts
  • Zoos Forum - Reconstitute as a committee of experts.


Report by Ian Bell