Farmworkers' union Unite said this week that it saw "the hand of the major supermarkets" behind the government's plan to abolish the English Agricultural Wages Board – and challenged the Groceries Code Adjudicator, Christine Tacon to probe the matter.
The AWB had protected the incomes of 150,000 agricultural workers since the Second World War, said Unite, and its removal in the current economic climate would leave workers facing 'poverty level' wages while increasing the supermarkets' already handsome profits.
Unite's national officer for agriculture, Julia Long, said: "This is the first big test for Christine Tacon and will reveal if the new ombudsman has real teeth to right injustices and inequalities in the major supermarkets' relationships with their suppliers which, in turn, impacts, currently adversely, on those working on the land."
The Union called on Mrs Tacon to investigate the relationship between supermarkets, their suppliers, and the pay and conditions of workers employed by those suppliers.
It also called for an inquiry into the links between supermarket pricing regimes and the abolition of the AWB, including analysis by respondents to the government's consultation on AWB abolition that unfair prices paid by supermarkets are leading suppliers to look for profits by cutting workers' pay.