Growers in Scotland have warned that they will be unfairly penalised by plans to introduce a national living wage from April 2016.
According to the Scottish NFU (NFUS), growers may have to pay the national living wage to all staff, not just those over 25, as unlike England, Scotland retained the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board (SAWB). The union is now calling for the abolition of the SAWB.
NFU Scotland Chief Executive Scott Walker said, “Our members are committed to paying fair wages, but that has to be set against the unfairness of having a parallel employment system which only applies to Scottish agriculture. All this will have an impact on how competitive our growers are when it comes to putting fresh produce on the shelves.
“Growers in Scotland compete directly with farm businesses in England as well as the rest of Europe and wages can represent more than 40 per cent of the operating costs of such a business. The living wage will see any profit margin eliminated unless Scottish growers can recover the extra cost they face through the products they sell. If this doesn’t happen, then there will be less Scottish fruit and vegetables produced.”
In a comment aimed at retailers and other buyers he added; “The supply chain needs to recognise that what they pay for farm produce is the biggest determinant of what a business can afford to pay its staff and any sensible sourcing commitment from retailers needs to address this issue.”