Losing farm wage board 'a breach of human rights'
The Government is being accused of a breach of human rights over its decision to scrap a body which set wages for agricultural workers.
Unite, the nation's largest trades union, has filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB), which set minimum wage rates and other terms and conditions for about 150,000 workers in England and Wales.
The board was abolished in England last month while the position in Wales is under discussion.
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: "The abolition of the AWB by the Government is a stain on democracy and we believe that it is also a breach of basic human rights.
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"There wasn't even a debate or a vote in parliament on the Government's proposal to abolish the AWB.
"The board was a vital mechanism for maintaining adequate living standards for agricultural workers.
"Our members in low-paid rural industries are facing a serious assault from a multi-million pound food industry backed by the Government.
"Unite is determined to fight for the rights of individual working men and women to come together and bargain collectively in order to improve living standards."
The AWB dates back to the Second World War, when it followed on from the War Agriculture (Warag) regulations.
Farmer organisations say that with the advent of Minimum Wages legislation the AWB was superfluous and actually prevented employers from paying their farm staff the wages they deserved.