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As all business operators will know the National Minimum Wage is to increase in April 2021 from £8.72 to £8.91, this amounts to 2.2% and was based on research by the Low Pay Commission for HMG and announced in October 2020. Clearly most business operators are not fans of increases to their costs especially during our current health and economic crisis but this increase is broadly in line with wage
growth across industries. We must also not forget the fact that our fantastic industry is totally reliant on the hard-working guys on the ground pruning vines and harvesting fruit in all weathers year in and
year out.

All businesses have an ethical responsibility to ensure that workers receive the correct pay and that vineyards and wineries using contract services should ensure that the labour provider pays their staff correctly. With this consideration labour users should always check that their provider is a holder of a GLAA licence meaning they have a guarantee of compliance and their workers will never pay the price of poor purchasing practice.

In addition to workers pay rates, labour providers need to run profitable businesses to cover overheads and costs, these have increased dramatically during the Covid 19 crisis with many companies including Vine-Works having to cover additional costs such as quarantine living expenses for workers returning from their countries of origin. Labour users that pay unrealistically low rates are knowingly or recklessly supporting labour exploitation, tax evasion or both, inevitably when this behaviour comes to light these businesses and industries face very damaging publicity to their company and the industry. Unfortunately, there will always be unscrupulous operators ready to take advantage in all industries and ours is no different. Companies
accepting the lowest price for agency labour will be at the expense of workers with unscrupulous labour providers undercutting compliant operators by evading their legal responsibilities, such operators have no place in our industry. We have many prestigious brands within our industry and any negative press exposure within the production chain will inevitably filter upwards and impact upon the reputation of the brand, which is a price that is just not worth paying!

To assist labour providers and users our trade advisory body (Association of Labour Providers) and our regulatory body (GLAA – Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority) issue a charge rate calculator every year so that all costs are visible and transparent for all parties. The costs produced show statutory costs as well as basic overheads (but do NOT account for any profit margin). The guidance takes account of new national minimum/living wages, national insurance thresholds, increased labour sourcing and retention costs, increased transport and PPE. The costs shown in the table are indicative and there are likely to be small variations for each individual but any significant variation should ring alarm bells.

The link for this guidance is www.gla.gov.uk/media/6994/glaa-brief-issue-68-charge-rate-guidance-march-2021.pdf. For a charge rate calculator that allows for information to be input and a calculation estimate produced ALP members can access through the members area at labourproviders.org.uk/. Labour users
can also check on labour providers license status by visiting www.gla.gov.uk/our-impact/who-has-a-glaa-licence/. The ALP have also launched an awareness programme called Fairs Fair which illustrates how unfair recruitment practices can encourage labour exploitation, this can also be found via their website.

PUBLISHED IN VINEYARD MAGAZINE – MAY 2021

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