Today, Labour launched its new fairness for the countryside campaign “Back the Apple” to protect pay and conditions for England’s farm workers and fruit pickers.
The Tory-led Government are planning to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board as part of the Public Bodies Bill which has its Second Reading in the House of Commons today. The Agricultural Wages Board has protected pay and conditions for farm workers, from apprentices to supervisors, since the Attlee government set it up in 1948.
140,000 people in England have their pay set by the AWB which also covers holiday, sick pay and overtime. Fruit pickers and farm workers will see their wages fall if the AWB is abolished and the National Minimum Wage replaces their current AWB wage. Workers could lose between £150 and £265 a week in sick pay. The AWB also sets a minimum wage of £2.98 an hour for school age children working at weekends or on summer jobs – but they are not covered by minimum wage legislation. Labour has contacted its rural supporters asking them to lobby their MPs directly.
Mary Creagh, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary said:
“Labour is launching the “Back the Apple” campaign to show our commitment to fairness in the countryside. We want to raise awareness of pay and conditions in the countryside and to head off the Tory-led government’s race to the bottom for rural workers and their families who are feeling the squeeze.
“These protections make sure that fruit pickers and farm workers get a fair deal. David Cameron talks a lot about fairness, but his unfair actions speak louder than words and will hit the pockets of rural workers across the country. Labour’s Back the Apple campaign shows we will continue to speak up for the countryside.”