Prince of Wales caught in the middle of agricultural wages row

 

The Prince of Wales is facing questions about his commitment to fighting rural poverty after a manager at his Duchy of Cornwall business empire backed reforms to reduce agricultural wages.

Trade union leaders have written to the prince calling on him to clarify his position on the Agricultural Wages Board, which is set to be abolished later this year in a move which opponents say will cost farm labourers more than £235m in lost income and entitlements over the next decade.

The views of the heir to the throne, whose own penchant for writing to ministers has previously seen him accused of meddling in government affairs, are being sought after the manager of Duchy of Cornwall Nursery called the AWB “archaic” and its overtime rates “ridiculous”.

The Duchy, a private estate whose profits fund the living expenses of the heir to the throne and his dependents, including the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, last year distributed a surplus of £18.3m to Prince Charles. It paid £3.6m in wages and staff costs to its 130 employees.

Angie Coombs, the general manager of the nursery, which employs 30 people and recently received a £1.3m facelift, responded to a consultation exercise by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by describing the AWB as “archaic and longer fit for purpose”.

Complaining that employee protection had improved considerably since the board was set up after the Second World War, Mrs Coombs wrote: “Why should agricultural workers be treated any differently and in some cases, [receive] superior benefits?” She added: “It’s a huge issue when agricultural (or in my case horticultural) businesses are required to operate under these regimes, which are costly. The overtime rates are ridiculous and, when running a seven-day-week business, make it impossible to budget sensibly.”

Under the current pay rates set by the AWB, the 140,000 farm workers in England and Wales receive an hourly rate ranging from £6.21 for the lowest grade to £8.70 for managers. Overtime rates range from £9.32 to £13.05. The national minimum wage currently stands at £6.19 per hour.

The Duchy, which directly employs 10 “estate workers” and 30 nursery staff, would be likely to see a significant fall in its wage bill if the plans go ahead to end the AWB.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said: “It’s deeply alarming that any part of the Duchy of Cornwall would play any part in driving down the pay of already low-paid agricultural workers.

“Prince Charles is a supporter of  the countryside so we would expect him to share our concerns about the Government’s attempt to allow big business a free hand over our rural future.”

In a statement, the Duchy said: “The response submitted by the Duchy Nursery represented its view as a commercial business in the field of horticulture, not the Duchy as a whole or The Prince of Wales.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
people
News
20. Larry Page: Net worth: $23 billion; Country: U.S; Source of wealth: Google
business
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
A collection of 30 Banksy prints at Bonhams auction house in London
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness