Union row over farming pay talks

The Unite trade union has criticised NFU Scotland over its approach to talks on agricultural workers’ terms and conditions.

Unite issued a news release on Friday evening claiming NFUS had resisted proposals to increase farm workers’ hourly rates of pay.

The release stated: “Union reps were stunned when the NFUS resisted an initial 3.2% increase proposal to the hourly rates of workers, currently £6.86 per hour for workers over 26 weeks of employment service and £6.22 for those under, instead proposing a pay freeze and a removal of overtime rates for workers with less than 26 weeks service.

“The employer-side then offered a 10p per hour increase for both hourly rates, which only keeps workers with under 26 weeks of service 1p above October’s new adult National Minimum Wage (NMW) rate of £6.31 per hour – a meagre return in an industry worth up to £2.4 billion a year and the UK’s largest manufacturing sector.

“Despite making concessions on their original claim, Unite is disappointed that the independent members sided with the NFUS and allowed a pitiful increase to be approved in this heavily subsidised sector.”

Unite regional officer Scott Foley said: “This is a shameless move by the NFUS to cut and gut the basic terms and conditions of up to 25,000 Scottish agricultural workers.

Their initial stance on the removal of access to premium rates to mainly poor migrant workers was thankfully rejected by both the union and the independent members of the board. However, this is an industry worth billions to the Scottish economy and its workers continue to be amongst the lowest paid in our labour market.

“Unite has fought hard to retain the SAWB to try and keep workers above the low pay trap, tackling the worst aspects of an industry notoriously affected by poor safety standards and worker exploitation, but after the abolition of the AWB in England, and not forgetting the Scottish Government’s own attempts to get rid of the board in 2008, there is a clear agenda to cast employment standards back to the dark ages.

“It’s pure opportunism with no thought given to human consequences of this cuts agenda.”

We have invited NFUS to respond to the Unite claims and will publish their reply if and when one is received.