When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Farm workers face cuts
8:30am Thursday 3rd May 2012 in Letters
Sir – Farm and horticultural workers across Oxfordshire will see their wages reduced and conditions worsen under Government plans to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) this year.
Skilled workers, who already earn £4,000 less, on average, than city workers, (figures from Country Standard magazine) will see their pay reduced from £9.78 per hour to the national minimum wage of £6.08. Overtime rates will be slashed, along with holidays, while sick pay and protection in tied homes will become a thing of the past.
The AWB has been in existence for most of the last century to protect isolated, rural workers. While well-off farmers receive handsome subsidies from public funds, they are working hand in glove with the Government to force thousands of rural workers into poverty. The National Union of Agricultural Workers (NUAW) had a proud history of opposing exploitation in the Oxfordshire countryside; union official, John Dunman, who recruited record numbers of farm workers to the Charlbury branch, invited workers to ‘sharpen their sickles’ and twice stood in elections for the Abingdon constituency.
The current campaign against scrapping the AWB is beginning to gain momentum: farm workers attended the May Day event in Witney last weekend and one of their representatives addressed the rally on Church Green. The Unite union, successor to the NUAW, is asking the public to show solidarity with today’s farm workers by writing to their MPs and campaigning against abolition of the AWB.
We rely on farm workers to produce the food we eat and to care for the countryside; we should ensure that they are not forced into poverty while doing so.
Chris Davis, Oxford