One hundred and fifty two thousand farmworkers face a direct attack on their wage packets.
Why? For no good reason other than that the Con-Dem's blatant onslaught on the working class at the bidding of their paymasters is breaking dirt in the countryside.
In the year marking the 180th anniversary of the founding of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers at Tolpuddle the government aims to axe the independent Agricultural Wages Board (AWB).
It would mean nothing less than a major transfer of wealth from those who work on farms to those who own them. And it looks like the only justification for this devastating move which will increase rural poverty is that the Tories made a manifesto commitment.
The independent AWB for England and Wales is the last of the old wages councils - the others were axed in the early 1990s.
It didn't get the chop then because farmers and farmworkers were ostensibly quite happy with it.
Under the current system the AWB covers graded pay scales, also taking into account skills, qualifications and responsibilities - not contained in the national minimum wage legislation - hours and other rights. Without it wages will fall or stagnate.
Potential costs to farm workers in lower wages are horrifying - the Environment Department's own impact assessment reckons over 10 years the cost in lost wages will be a staggering £235.7 million.
And the overall gain will be £236.2m - £500,000 gained by the taxpayer from less bureaucracy, the rest by farmers.
As usual, the government is putting out a smokescreen spin.
Farming Minister David Heath said plans were "to modernise the agricultural labour market (which) could create almost 1,000 new jobs while keeping workers well protected."
The bureaucrats said in their best PR-speak: "The law governing agricultural wages will be harmonised with the rest of the economy, ending an anomaly requiring farmers to follow outdated and bureaucratic rules dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.
"Research shows that in line with the government's work to reduce bureaucracy in the food and farming industry, farmers will save significant time, effort and costs."
Very nice if it could be justified with facts and it were even generally true. The background is a little more complex. For example, no-one can say how, when or where the 1,000 jobs will be created.
The AWB was set up under the 1948 Agricultural Wages Act and its legally binding annual wage orders are enforced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - usually coming into force on October 1 every year.
But as Labour's shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary Mary Creagh said at her party's conference last month: "(This year) what may be the last Agricultural Wages Order comes into force.
"Over 152.000 farmworkers, fruit pickers, food packers will get a pay rise - thanks to you. Next year, if the Tories have their way, they won't."
Unite has launched a massive campaign to raise the profile of the fight and is asking for the four-week public consultation - ending this Monday - to be extended another eight weeks.
Farm work is tough and one of the most potentially dangerous occupations. Pay and conditions don't rank among the highest. The AWB was a buffer.
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: "The AWB is not a bureaucracy. It provides essential support to rural communities.
"Driving down wages does not create jobs, it makes workers and families more vulnerable.
"If the abolition is allowed to happen, highly skilled workers will see their pay threatened, overtime rates will disappear, holidays reduced and sick pay will be a thing of the past.
"Protection in their tied homes will be reduced and rents increased."
She added: "We need a fairly paid agricultural workforce, and the AWB provides a tried and tested way for workers, their employers and independent specialists to jointly discuss this."
The Welsh Assembly government is strongly against the abolition - a position welcomed and supported by Unite, the Farmers Union of Wales and Wales Young Farmers.
One of the campaigners is Richard Neville, a Sussex farmworker who has been on the land for 39 years.
The Unite branch secretary has pedigree. "My parents were involved in the campaign to save the board in 1993 and were also involved in the 1976 agricultural rent act campaign."
Fellow campaigner David Hide said the reason for the abolition now was a 2010 manifesto commitment - "work had been done by both the National Farmers Union and the Horticultural Trades Association to lobby the Tories while in opposition to gain this commitment."
He added: "While we may think Labour didn't do enough to protect workers while in government it did bring in the national minimum wage which is what some farmers and growers now want to fall back on.
"Their (farmers and growers) argument is that if other local industries can employ casual and agency workers on the minimum wage then why can't they. The base rate in respect of the AWB order is 2p an hour higher than the minimum wage.
"I am making no excuses for the employers, but their argument is that in some areas - particularly the vegetable, fruit and salad sectors - they employ fewer full-time staff who might be better paid than the many agency workers doing what they consider low skilled picking and harvesting work which they wish to pay at no more than minimum rates.
"Again their argument is that their profit margins are being continually squeezed by the supermarkets and they might just have a point."
Progressive journal Country Standard says that Northern Ireland has retained its AWB structure after a public consultation.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "I firmly believe that the AWB structure is a valuable forum for wage negotiations and importantly is used as a benchmark for the wider agri-food industry."
Whitehall take note.
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