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UK 'facing farming labour crisis'

16 June 08 14:02 GMT

The UK is facing a labour crisis in the agriculture and horticulture industry, a trade union warns.

Unite says an ageing workforce, combined with migrant workers returning home, is leading to a labour gap which could affect food supplies.

It is calling on the National Farmers' Union (NFU) to agree to a 6% pay rise demand for farm workers to help attract more young people into farming.

The NFU says it is negotiating on the matter and has made a "credible" offer.

Unite represents skilled workers across the industry, whose jobs include driving tractors, looking after livestock, sowing and harvesting crops.

The union says the shortage of workers could affect food supplies in the UK and abroad.

It says half of all farm workers are over 55 and a quarter are over 65.

In addition to a pay rise, Unite is calling for the creation of a pension scheme, improvements to holiday entitlement, Sunday and bank holiday pay, sick pay, bereavement leave and a revision of accommodation for temporary workers.

Unite's national secretary for food and agriculture, Chris Kaufman, said: "Fathers are advising their children not to follow them into farming because they cannot get a living wage.

"Both sides of industry agree that the only salvation is to attract young workers into the industry but for that the NFU must put its money where its mouth is."

Both Unite and the NFU are involved in negotiations at the Agricultural Wages Board - which sets pay and conditions for farm workers in England and Wales.

The NFU says: "We have made an opening offer. This is a credible offer bearing in mind sectors such as livestock which have not seen any increase in their incomes."

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