HC Deb 17 March 1983 vol 39 cc343-4
16. Mr. Wigley

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by what proportion forestry workers' average gross wages have increased in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the current year's negotiations.

Mrs. Fenner

The gross earnings of forestry workers employed by the Forestry Commission rose by 14.8 per cent. in 1980, by 11.9 per cent. in 1981, and by 9.9 per cent. in 1982. No comparable figures are available in respect of workers employed in the private sector of forestry. The Forestry Commission intends to make a formal response shortly to the pay claim for forest workers lodged for the year beginning 1 February 1983.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Minister accept that a few years ago there was parity of earnings between forestry workers and farm workers, but that in recent years that has been eroded to the extent that forestry workers are now as much as £9 a week behind? In those circumstances, and in view of the failure of the piecework scheme, will she say that the 3.5 per cent. Government cash limit is unreasonable to bridge that gap?

Mrs. Fenner

I know that the pay of forestry workers has been traditionally linked to the awards made to agricultural workers by the AWB. However, Forestry Commission workers enjoy superannuation and other benefits which are not available to forestry and agricultural workers in the private sector. That was reflected in the 1982 pay settlement and no doubt will again be reflected in that for 1983.