The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has responded with anger and bewilderment at the claims in Unite’s paper ‘Stormont Hands off our Farm Workers – Defend and Expand the Agriculture Wages Board (AWB)’.
Robert McCloy, UFU’s lead AWB representative, said: “Unite cites a number of inaccuracies in the paper which skew the debate on the abolition of the AWB and they must be withdrawn immediately.
“Most notably, the misleading tone of the paper is an attempt to discredit farmers in the eyes of the public and the fact that it’s introduction incorrectly states that the UFU colluded with Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots because he is a member of the UFU, which he is not.”
Mr McCloy continued: “Unite claim that we ‘don’t seem to care that abolishing the AWB threatens to remove protections for many small farmers and their family members who are forced by economic necessity, to work on other farms or elsewhere in the industry’.
“Yet on the AWB, the Unite representatives all hail from the agri-processing sector. Therefore, to make a statement such as this, illustrates a real lack of understanding regarding how our members rely on and utilise labour on farms.”
The document states that the UFU has urged for the abolition of the AWB since 1909, which Mr McCloy said is not true nor possible because it was only established in 1918.
The paper also fails to mention that the UFU were instrumental in setting the actual order in 1977 when the Union deemed that it was necessary.
Mr McCloy added: “In conclusion, the language and the tone of this paper has damaged relations between the UFU and Unite. We will continue to call for the abolition of the outdated AWB and would urge MLAs to consider the facts rather than the inaccurate statements littered throughout the Unite paper.”