Hebden Royd Town Council has recently written to local MP, Mr Craig Whittaker outlining its dismay at his decision to support the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board.
In the view of councillors of all political persuasions, the government’s decision was regressive and badly timed. The Agricultural Wages Board set wages and other terms and conditions of employment for workers employed in agriculture. The Board also had powers to decide other terms and conditions of employment including holidays and sick pay. Its reach was therefore much wider than simply setting minimum pay rates, and it helped to foster and promote agricultural work as a worthwhile career option.
As the United Kingdom faces unparalleled economic and social pressures, not just from the international crisis in the financial sector, but also from climate change and resource depletion, it is likely that thousands of migrants will seek to work in the UK over the next few years, particularly in traditionally low paid sectors like agricultural work. Without effective protection, this will force down rates of pay and encourage abusive employment practices, leaving good employers, such as those in the Calder Valley, in competition with less ethical businesses.
Cllr Jonathan Timbers said, ‘It is absolutely vital for the future of the United Kingdom that we ensure that we can feed ourselves. This is dependent on attractive career opportunities existing in a sustainable economy. Young people from Calder Valley should have the option of working in good jobs, with decent pay, in the agricultural sector. This decision makes that less likely.’
HRTC would be interested to hear what steps are currently taking to promote working in the agricultural sector in the Calder Valley constituency and in particular what Craig Whittaker as our MP is going to undertake to promote sustainable food production.
Cllr Jonathan Timbers can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.