IFA Press Release
Issued by the National Press Office, The Irish Farmers’ Association
Tuesday March 1 2011
REFORM OF WAGE SETTING MECHANISMS A PRIORITY FOR AGRICULTURE SECTOR – IFA
Reform of the wage setting mechanisms for agriculture must be a priority in the ongoing review of Employment Regulation Orders (ERO), according to Sam Harper, lead IFA representative on the Agricultural Workers Joint Labour Committee (JLC).
The Agricultural Workers JLC is composed of employer and employee representatives of the agricultural sector. The ERO outlines the statutory minimum rates of pay and terms of employment for all agricultural workers.
Mr Harper said, “Labour costs are a significant component of overall input costs for agriculture, particularly in the labour intensive horticulture, pigmeat and poultry sectors. These sectors are competing on the domestic and export markets, with the UK in particular, whose minimum agricultural wage rates are set between 15-20% below the Irish rate.”
He continued, “It is important to find the right balance between providing a floor for the earnings of people in low-paid employment and ensuring that we do not damage the competitiveness of our goods and service industries.”
He concluded, “IFA believes that reform of the Joint Labour Committee structures and processes is necessary to achieve a competitive and flexible agriculture sector and to retain employment, and has set out its proposals for reform in a detailed submission to the Review Body.”
IFA’s proposals for reform, outlined in its submission to the Review Body, are:
• National Minimum Wage – any further changes to the National Minimum Wage must be undertaken transparently, using objective economic criteria, and taking into account the wage rates of our main trading competitors.
• Wage Setting for the agriculture sector – there is no remaining argument to maintain different sectoral rates of pay. The statutory basic employment rights and rates of pay (National Minimum Wage) should be the baseline for agricultural workers.
• Retention of Flexibilities – the Agricultural Workers JLC should retain the authority to agree flexibilities in the terms and conditions of employment for agricultural workers appropriate to the specific needs of the agriculture sector.
• Reform of JLC structure – there is a need to reform the JLC structure and processes to give greater balance between employee and employer representatives, to allow the committee to react to changing economic circumstances and to communicate more effectively with agricultural employers
• Regulation and enforcement – regulation and employment compliance procedures for small businesses must be reformed. This includes:
– Consolidation and simplification of employment law, which would make compliance, particularly for small employers, an attainable objective; and
– Total reform of NERA to provide greater guidance and support for employers in order to facilitate, rather than enforce, compliance.
Niall Madigan (01) 450 1931/ 086 822 8635
Morag Devins (01) 426 0344/ 086 263 3940