Agricultural workers' pay: AMs back ministers' emergency bill bid

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Media captionHerdsman Frank Layton explains why he thinks the board's functions should be retained

Emergency legislation to protect the wages of farm workers in Wales is to be pushed through despite criticism from opposition politicians who say procedure is being abused.

It follows the abolition of the Agriculture Wages Board by the UK government which used to set the pay of more than 13,000 Welsh farm workers.

The Welsh government wants to retain the functions of the (AWB).

But there has been criticism of the speed at the progression of the bill.

On Tuesday, AMs voted to introduce the new bill on Monday and a vote into law is due on 17 July.

Opposition AMs have criticised the speed of how quick the bill was going through saying procedure was being abused by the Welsh government.

The Welsh government introduced the bill following the removal of the AWB by the UK government in June.

For 65 years it was a forum for employer and employee representatives in both Wales and England to decide jointly on wages and conditions.

UK ministers argued that removing the board would enable the industry to adopt flexible working practices and help ensure a sustainable and viable future for agriculture.

The Welsh government opposed its abolition but was told by Whitehall it was not a devolved matter since it dealt primarily with non-devolved employment issues rather than agriculture.

And so ministers in Wales asked for an emergency bill to retain the functions of the AWB.

It will have two debates during plenary sessions in the assembly on 9 and 16 July, followed by a vote into law on 17 July.

It is unprecedented for the Welsh government to attempt to pass a bill in such a tight timescale.

Rural Affairs Minister Alun Davies said: "The Welsh government's decision to ask that this bill be introduced with such urgency is not one we have taken lightly.

If they had not acted, the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board, and the revocation of the Agricultural Wages Order 2012, "would impact upon the whole of Welsh agriculture and it would be done with no support for this in Wales".

"Time and time again people across Wales have made clear that they do no want to see the AWB abolished."

Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own wages board.

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