Public consultation launched on proposals to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) in Northern Ireland

Date published: 13 May 2021

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has launched a public consultation today on proposals to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) in Northern Ireland.

DARD News

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has launched a public consultation today on proposals to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) in Northern Ireland.

The AWB is responsible for setting of minimum rates of pay and certain terms and conditions for agricultural workers in the agriculture and horticulture sectors.

The consultation is aimed at organisations, groups and people who are involved in agricultural activities. 

Making his announcement, the Minister said: “Agricultural wage-setting and the Agricultural Wages Board stem from a time in the early 20th century when intervention was necessary to create a stable agricultural production and food supply in the context of two world wars and when there was less protection for workers.

“The agricultural and employment context has undergone significant change since the introduction of these mechanisms and various pieces of employment legislation have been introduced over the years to greatly improve the level of protection afforded to all workers, in areas covering minimum wage, holiday entitlement and sick pay.

“I therefore consider it an appropriate time to determine if government intervention in the agricultural labour market, by way of the Agricultural Wages legislation, remains necessary.  Later this year, after the consultation, I will bring forward proposals to Assembly to consider abolishing the agricultural wages framework to bring agriculture within the same employment legislation applicable to employers and workers in all other sectors of the economy,” Minister Poots explained.

“This would simplify applicable legislation, reducing the regulatory and administrative burden on agricultural businesses and would place agricultural workers under the protections afforded by wider employment law and UK minimum wage rates.  I would encourage everyone with an interest, stakeholders, industry, and the general public, to actively participate in this consultation which is open until 8 July 2021.”

The closing date for responses to the consultation is 8 July 2021.

The consultation document can be found on the DAERA consultation page.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The consultation seeking views on the proposal to abolish the AWB can be accessed on the DAERA consultation page or by emailing AWBconsultation@daera-ni.gov.uk
  2. The consultation on the proposal will run from 13 May 2021 until 8 July 2021.   Full details of how to respond are available in the consultation document.  Responses can also be submitted through the Citizen Space website from 14 May 2021.
  3. The Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) was established under the terms of the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, to regulate the minimum rates of wages, and other related matters, for workers in agriculture.
  4. The Board consists of 15 members:
  • three Independent Members appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, one of whom is Chair of the Board.  Currently one Independent Member post is vacant;
  • six members nominated by the Ulster Farmers' Union as representatives of agricultural employers; and
  • six members nominated by Unite the Union as representatives of agricultural workers' interests.
  1. Information on Agricultural Wages.  Information can also be obtained by contacting the Agricultural Wages Secretariat at CorporateSponsorBranch@daera-ni.gov.uk or on 028 7744 2250.
  2. A DRAFT Equality Impact Assessment has been carried out to determine impact upon the relevant Section 75 groups and is also out for consultation for a period of 12 weeks.  Comments on the draft assessment are welcomed until 5 August 2021.  The documents are available on the DAERA consutation page or can be sent on request.  Please email AWBconsultation@daera-ni.gov.uk. or call 028 9052 4613 in order to make the necessary arrangements.
  3. Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook.
  4. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office: press.office.group@daera-ni.gov.uk.
  5. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 18:00hrs and 08:00hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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