Last Wednesday, the Government continued its campaign against the lowest paid in society by engineering a successful vote in the House of Lords to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB).
The AWB was created in 1948 and set minimum pay rates as well as conditions such as sick pay, holiday entitlement, tied housing and many other employment provisions for farmers and farmworkers.
The Government was seeking to abolish what they considered an overly bureaucratic anachronism. And to do so they avoided using the elected House of Commons, preferring to push the bill through the undemocratic House of Lords. They also ignored their own consultation, including the views of the farmers and the farmworkers, which showed the 63 per cent were against the abolition of the AWB. They refused to be swayed by the fact that by abolishing the AWB they would be taking £247 million out of the pockets of the lowest paid in the country according to DEFRA’s own figures.
It is clear who the main beneficiaries of this move will be. It will be the big agri-bosses and the major supermarkets that are determined to drive down costs by pushing down worker’s wages towards poverty levels. Scrapping the AWB will affect the livelihood of over 150,000 agricultural workers across the UK, a significant number in Lincolnshire.
If we tie this news in with the continuing cost of living crisis that is being perpetuated, increasing energy and fuels costs leading to price increases in the basics that we all need, then we can see that by driving down wages the government is completely out of touch with the rural communities it claims to hold close to its heart.
I feel that the scrapping of the AWB is one more step on the path where the Government want to limit aspiration, drive down wages and continue its attacks on the vulnerable. This step puts the livelihoods of many people in Lincolnshire at risk.