Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has set out plans to revoke legislation which underpins the Agricultural Wages Board in Northern Ireland.

The role of the board is to set minimum rates of pay and conditions for workers in agriculture.

Minister Poots said: “The Agricultural Wages Board was established in Northern Ireland around 80 years ago when there was less protection for workers.

“However, various pieces of 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.

More recently, the introduction of the National Living Wage has further reduced the necessity of the Agricultural Wages Board and, in my view, there remains little justification for the agricultural sector to be the only industry subject to the special considerations of a wage board.

“Therefore, I have instructed my officials to put in place arrangements, subject to Executive agreement and the completion of necessary impact assessments, for the Assembly to consider legislation regarding the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board in Northern Ireland.

“Following abolition, it is my view that the regulatory and administrative burden on agricultural businesses will be reduced and the agricultural sector will be brought in line with the rest of the economy, with all workers receiving the protections afforded by wider employment law and UK minimum wage rates.

“I would like to thank the current chair and members of the board for their work and professionalism to date.”

Agricultural Wages Board

The Agricultural Wages Board, in its current form, was legislated for 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.

The board consists of 15 members:

  • Three members appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, one of whom is Chair of the Board (one position is currently 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.

The Agricultural Wages (Regulation) (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 and Agricultural Wages Board will remain in effect until the legislative process to revoke the 1977 Order is concluded, subject to Executive agreement.