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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A never-ending AWB?


© Agripicture Images
Last Friday’s confirmation meeting brings to an end the current round of Agricultural Wages Board deliberations. The increases in hourly rates* will take effect from 1 October this year.

Will this be the last time the parties sit round the table to negotiate wages under the auspices of the AWB?

Before the Board can be abolished, a 12-week consultation has to take place, followed by the laying of draft legislation in parliament for between 40 and 60 days. Plans for abolition before the 2013 wages talks start are beginning to look optimistic.

A month ago, Defra minister Jim Paice gave assurances in parliament that the government was determined to abolish the board. He added that negotiations with the Welsh Government were “ongoing”. Those negotiations do seem to be taking some time (Defra was already “discussing” the consultation process with Welsh ministers back in February).

So, what we do know is that there'll be a new Agricultural Wages Order in place from 1 October 2012. What we don't know is whether it will definitely be the last of its kind. We -along with our farming clients - await developments.

What employers will be keen to know is whether, and if so how, they can move out of AWO terms once there is no longer an AWO in force – let’s say, being optimistic, from October 2013. There may be some provisions in the legislation which affect what can and cannot be done following abolition. Future terms and conditions may well turn on the wording used in current employment contracts.

Having said that, employers who are taking on workers between now and the abolition of the Board should definitely take advice about whether, and how, they should be amending their standard contracts in view of the likely move into an AWO-free landscape. Action now could mean greater flexibility further down the line.

Contact Phil Cookson for further information.

* 2.8% rise for workers on Grades 2 and above, 1.8% for Grade 1 workers.