MP David Heath's surgery besieged by farm wages board protest
Unite trade union members and Frome Labour Party members held a protest outside Frome Library where the town's MP David Heath was holding his surgery.
The protest was against the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) and Mr Heath's support of the decision to end what he described as a "costly relic of a previous age".
The AWB sets the pay and conditions of agricultural workers. Unite are campaigning against its abolition and said that 60 per cent of responses to the Government's consultation were in favour of retention.
In its submissions Unite has argued that supermarkets, and the growers who supply them, were behind moves to abolish AWB in order to drive down labour costs.
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The protest in Frome was sparked by Mr Heath's support of the abolition. According to protestors, in opposition he signed an early day motion in Parliament along with other MPs who were opposed to the disappearance of the board.
Frome branch secretary Julia Gray said: "Along with tuition fees, welfare benefits, regional pay and many other issues, this is a complete U-turn by Mr Heath and the Lib Dems. When Mr Heath was appointed Farming Minister he promised to work for constituents but it is now clear this does not include the 26,000 agricultural workers in the South West."
Mr Heath responded by saying that the AWB was once an essential protection for farm workers.
He added: "But the Labour Party and the unions seem to ignore the raft of other employment protections put in place over recent years such as the national minimum wage and the gang masters licensing legislation which mean that the AWB is now a costly relic of a previous age.
"The last of a large number of wages boards which have since been abolished. I suspect that few of the protesters actually work on the land and therefore they don't realise that good cowmen, for instance, are hard to come by and certainly valued by their employers.
"I also regret the fact that they think it's appropriate to demonstrate at a public library when I am holding an advice surgery and trying to provide help and support for my constituents."