Fens nursery boss Wayne Eady warns of threat to industry posed by introduction of National Living Wage

Wayne Eady

Wayne Eady - Credit: Archant

A Fenland nursery that employs up to 200 workers at peak periods - and was bought out last year by a German company- warned that introduction of the National Living Wage could threaten recruitment.

Wayne Eady, managing director of Wisbech St Mary based Volmary – formerly Delamore Young Plants- says the changes have “fundamentally changed” the way they and others in agriculture or horticulture run their businesses.

He said until now, and for “relatively small sums”, they had been able to attract shop and hotel workers to their industry.

“This has been a good policy for us and has given us a good feeling about what we do,” he said.

But new legislation surrounding the National Living Wage means the allure of moving into horticulture will no longer be there.

He warned that maintaining a gap between a basic worker and a more skilled worker will become much more difficult.

He said the risk was that the most skilled people will move to other less labour intensive sectors “where hourly pay is much less relevant to the employer than it is for all of us”.

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Mr Eady said: “The recent increases are only a small part of what is planned over the next four years, changes which represent roughly a seven per cent increase in wages per year. This at a time when inflation is at very low levels and when consumers want to pay less for their consumption and not more.

“To maintain profits, all businesses will either need to become much more efficient (if they aren’t already) or will see significantly reduced profits if they are lucky enough to have some.”

What he terms ‘trade-offs’ in relation to National Insurance and corporation tax benefits “barely scratch the surface of the impact that will be felt by everyone utilising employees at close to the National Living Wage.”

Mr Eady is one of a number of industry leaders being encouraged to lobby their MP about the issue.

He said his own experience of visiting MP Steve Barclay “was one of slight surprise on his part and of he having received little interaction with out sector.

“This is what we aim to address.”