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Farm workers given new hope by House of Lords in wages row
Thousands of Hampshire farm workers have been given hope of a reprieve in a row over their wages.
There has been an outcry over Government plans to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board, which sets the pay rates of staff employed on farms.
But the House of Lords has put a brake on the plans – registering a “not content” verdict on the controversial proposals. This means the decision will be held up and will have to go to a vote among peers.
The board was set up after the Second World War to set wages of people employed in the industry.
Unions say the board is a crucial protection for low earners, warning of a “race to the bottom” if it is scrapped.
Across Southampton, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, about 3,000 people are covered by its provisions, official figures show. This includes 1,009 on the Isle of Wight, 519 in New Forest East, 462 in New Forest West and 463 in Romsey and Southampton North seat.
Julia Long, of the Unite union, said the Government had behaved “in a shambolic way”.
She added: “Many peers are angry at both the Government’s plan to reduce rural workers’ livelihoods and the underhand manner it is being done.
“A brake has been put on the government’s pernicious proposal. There is still time to mobilise enough parliamentary support to halt the AWB’s abolition which has set agricultural workers' pay since the Second World War.”
Ministers insist the AWB amounts to “outdated and bureaucratic farm labour restrictions” and needs to be scrapped.
But the Government has admitted more than £235m would be transferred from workers to farm owners over the next decade as a result.