Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food
The Agricultural Sector (Wales) Act 2014 underpins the Welsh Government’s vision of a modern, professional and profitable agriculture industry in Wales, with a well-motivated, well-trained and appropriately remunerated workforce. I am proud that in Wales we have acted to maintain the functions of the Agricultural Wages Board which allows us to continue to operate under a statutory regime that ensures fair working conditions, recognises and rewards experience and qualifications, and provides clear progression paths to people employed within agriculture.
The Act specifies that the Welsh Ministers must establish an Agricultural Advisory Panel (the Panel). The Panel will play a vital role in supporting the functioning of agriculture by establishing a fair framework for reviewing wages and other terms and conditions of employment, and by promoting careers and skills development in the sector.
Last year, the Welsh Government consulted on the outline proposals for the Panel’s structure. I am pleased that the overall reaction from the industry to the initial proposals has been both positive and constructive. Today I am launching a 12 week public consultation on the final proposals which have been developed in line with the outcome of our first consultation and in response to additional feedback from key stakeholder organisations.
The consultation is arranged around four key proposals on the functions, constitution and the selection process of the membership of the Panel. The responses to the proposals will assist the Welsh Government in establishing the structure and remit of the Panel and in finalising the legislative basis for the introduction of this historic body. My aspiration is to have a Panel that provides fairness to workers and can respond to the needs of the industry in Wales.
The Panel will have the function of reviewing pay rates and other terms and conditions of employment in the agricultural sector. The Panel will consider the interests of both employees and employers and propose new pay settlements drawing on an understanding of the functioning of the industry, and working conditions in the industry, in Wales.
The Act stipulates that the Panel must also promote careers in agriculture. In doing so, it will also have the scope to support the uptake of new entrants by working closely with educational institutions and training organisations in Wales, and will contribute towards our overarching objective of the professionalisation of the industry by ensuring that workers in Wales have access to relevant training and are equipped with the necessary skills. Developing and retaining a skilled workforce will improve efficiency, productivity and profitability across the industry.
The Panel’s work will also directly contribute towards achieving this Government’s goals under the Tackling Poverty agenda, supporting rural economies and protecting low paid workers as well as delivering towards the recommendations of Professor Wynne Jones’ review on education and skills development within the agriculture sector.
The consultation will open on 27 March 2015 and close on 19 June 2015.