Summary of analysis
In total 56 responses were received to this consultation on the role of the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (SAWB). 13 of these responses (23%) were in favour of retaining the SAWB (option A), while 41 (73%) favoured abolition (option C). Only one of the 56 responses favoured option B, namely to retain the SAWB but as an advisory body, giving the Scottish Government the discretion to fix minimum wage rates and other conditions based on advice given by the SAWB.
Care should be taken in interpreting and using the number of responses. In some cases, one response may include the view of only one person, while in others one response may be from an organisation representing many hundreds of people (who individually may or may not agree with the submitted response). Broad trends may be applicable, for example employers generally favour removing the SAWB whilst organisations representing workers wish it to be retained. However, we cannot assume that numbers are representative of the industry of a whole.
Respondents favouring the retention of the SAWB tended to emphasise the positive aspects of the SAWB suggesting it is a best practice model of sectoral industrial relations, whilst raising concerns about the potential pressure for employers to cut wages and disadvantage vulnerable, low income workers if the SAWB is abolished.
Respondents favouring the abolition of the SAWB tended to stress the need for market freedom to set wages that enables business growth, the view that agricultural workers are already covered by general employment law and minimum wage rates, and the disadvantages of the SAWB for workers, such as: discriminatory pay treatment; reluctance to hire young workers; lack of public awareness of issues for farm workers; and problems with identification and enforcement of non-compliance by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and private sector auditors.
Respondents were also asked to advise on an alternative solution for establishing wage rates and terms and conditions for agricultural workers in Scotland. The main themes included: proposals for the remit of the SAWB to be extended; changing how the SAWB rate of pay is set; a proposal to improve the enforcement of SAWB rates; a view that the National Minimum Wage renders other wage controls obsolete; a proposal that the industry look at the cost of living changes to determine reviewed rates; recommendations regarding terms and conditions; and several other issues and comments.
Email: Clare Magill