Northern Irish farmers are backing plans to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board as it will reduce the 'regulatory and administrative burden' on farming businesses.
It was recently revealed by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) that their officials are working to bring forward legislation to progress with the plans.
The AWB was introduced in Northern Ireland when trade boards were common and it was established to set a minimum wage for agricultural workers.
However, in recent times it has been overtaken by the duplication of legislation between the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and the National Living Wage (NLW).
The NLW has rapidly increased since its introduction in 2016, rising to £9.21 per hour in 2021.
The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) said the NLW had decimated the grading structure that underpinned the AWB.
"As a result, the pay of agri workers is no longer calculated by experience and levels of responsibility," said UFU deputy president David Brown.
“These bands are essential to allow employers to pay workers based upon their qualifications and experience, both of which are crucial to agricultural work especially in the area of animal husbandry."
He said this brought into question the existence and relevance of the AWB in Northern Ireland.
"Farm businesses rely upon skilled and competent workers and our membership have always paid their farm workers a rate that guarantees this," he added.
"Following abolition of the AWB, agricultural workers would receive the protections afforded by wider employment law and UK minimum and national living wage rates.”