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O'Neill announces review of the AWB

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA has announced a Review of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) structure.
Friday, 28 October 2011

The AWB sets minimum rates of pay and conditions for workers in the agriculture and horticulture sectors, including a large proportion of migrant workers.

Making her announcement, the Minister said: “The Agricultural Wages Board structure here was last reviewed in 2005 and, in line with good business practice, a review is now timely. I firmly believe that the AWB structure is a valuable forum for wage negotiations and importantly is used as a benchmark for the wider Agri-food industry and other rural occupations.

“It continues to protect the rights of low paid agricultural workers here. However, I welcome the views of individuals or organisations on the future of the AWB at this time. The options for consideration are retention of the existing structure or complete abolition.”

In conclusion she added: “As we try to grow the economic potential of the agri-food sector in the time ahead, it is essential that workers in this industry are protected to not only help the sector flourish but encourage others to consider a career within it. The consulation on the AWB’s future is open to submission until close of play on the 25 January 2012, I would ask anyone wth an interest to put forward their views to my Department before the closing date.”

All comments or suggestions concerning the future of the Agricultural Wages Board should be forwarded to DARD Farm Policy Branch, Room 910, Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Ballymiscaw, Belfast BT4 3SB (Tel: 028 9052 0813 or Fax: 028 9052 4266), or email to joyce.miskimmons@dardni.gov.uk by 25 January 2012.

An Equality Impact Assessment has been carried out to determine the extent of differential impact upon the relevant Section 75 groups. A consultation document and Equality Impact Assessment document are being forwarded to interested parties in the industry and groups under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. Both documents are available on the Department’s website or can be sent on request.

Information on Agricultural Wages is available on the DARD website. Information can also be obtained by contacting the Agricultural Wages Secretariat, Room 910, Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Ballymiscaw, Belfast BT4 3SB (Tel: 028 9052 0813 or Fax: 028 9052 4266).

Notes to editors:

  1. The Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) is constituted under the Agricultural Wages (Regulation) (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 and meets each year to consider changes to the rates of pay and related conditions for agricultural workers.
  2. The AWB comprises six members of the Unite Union, six members of the Ulster Farmers' Union and three members appointed by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
  3. The AWB is a Non-Departmental Public Body which operates under the Agricultural Wages Board (Regulation) (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 and has the power to set for the agricultural workers in Northern Ireland:

    the minimum rate of pay;
    the holiday entitlement and holiday pay;
    the level of sick pay; and
    the maximum amount an employer can deduct from an agricultural worker’s gross pay.

    The 1977 Order also makes provision for dealing with complaints raised by employers and employees and the enforcement of this legislation.
  4. The Equality Impact Assessment document is being forwarded to interested parties in the industry and groups under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. The document is available on the DARD website or can be sent on request.
  5. This Press Release is issued by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
  6. All media queries should be directed to the DARD Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email pressoffice.group@dardni.gov.uk. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.