Are Trade Unions Worth It?

21 Feb

I had an interesting chat with a farmer/producer on Saturday, discussing the state of the Welsh food industry and the problems and opportunities that will face those involved in food this year. This guy’s family had farmed for quite a few generations and he’d taken the opportunity to do some farm diversification over the last few years. He certainly grabbed my attention when he chatted about the roles the unions had played in farmers’ lives. Having The National Union Farmers and Farmers Union Wales in his view is not always a bonus but he did feel that having a union fighting for your side in Wales and in Westminster was a huge bonus. He felt that the unions also gave the farming industry solidarity and of course much more weight to get their message heard.

I have never been a pro-union person, but he did get me thinking, especially when he commented that a union is what the food industry needs! As he explained further I did understand what he was getting at. He did know the food market and was aware that despite the huge amount of money spent on food in Wales only two counties feel that they should have a food officer – Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. He said that Wales used to have four Regional Food Managers but now thinks there are only two still in post. His concern was that producers struggle to get their voice heard and WAG doesn’t really talk to producers and find out what they want and what they need.

I explained that I have already raised the lack of communication with WAG and hoped that it would have been taken on board, but from what he was saying there has been little progress made. My farmer friend was aware that in November 09 I had arranged a meeting with Rural Minister Elin Jones, WAG and some of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers. Maybe it’s something that we should do again…….

This farmer really did feel that the strength of the unions allowed famers voices to be heard and they could get many of their basic problems heard and often solved, this is a luxury that our food producers feel that they a basically flying solo.

I wonder if you have given the union or officially recognised group issue a thought? But how do you feel about this topic? Are unions or officially recognised groups a bonus, or simply another invoice for you to pay from your dwindling funds?


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  1. honey monster

    February 21, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    I’ve never been a fan of unions but maybe it would make Wag listen to us instead of pretending that they know best…….
    anyone know how many of Wag food have actually worked in the Welsh food business and made a profit?

  2. food producer

    February 22, 2011 at 10:26 am

    I too have never supported unions but if that”s the way to give food producers one voice that Wag wil have to listen to then maybe this is not as outrageous as I first thought.
    I wonder though if we producers can persuade Welsh Country to find a way to make their BOW list more officiai? I’m sure it would take a huge amount of their time, when they are already doing such a lot for us but it’s an idea isn’t it? The magazine have so many producers on sde now, and the people their do know so much about the Welsh food politics. Maybe that would be a solution instead of an offical union, which I’m not really keen on. But then I’m not keen on Wag ignoring producers. .

  3. a food producer

    February 22, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I don’t rate unions but I do agree that farmers unions have done well in getting finiancial support for farmers.
    I’d be reluctant to push Kath into doing a union type job for us. But I also cannot think of anyone that would do a better job for us. We do need somehow to be official so that Wag have no option but to listen and act on our behalf. As the other message says BOW has grown and grown so they do have the support of the industry.
    I’d love opthers to put their views up and shall talk about this at my next farmer’s market and see how my fellow traders feel….

  4. sian

    February 23, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I don’t like unions, never have, but how do we get Wag to listen to our needs and wants?
    we do need to do something so our voice is heard

  5. cheese man

    February 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I agree with these comments
    I’m not into unions but I have no idea how we get Wag to take notice of producers
    I’m not sure Kath could be talked into doing any more for us.

  6. cider drinker

    February 24, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I’m anti unions but I’m not sure how we get our voices heard
    how do Wag think they actually communicate with us as food producers, well it’s obvious that they don’t but shouldn’t that be a huge part of their job?
    it’s time things changed in our food industry

  7. Welsh Silver Surfer

    February 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I hate unions but am in agreement with comments left
    I don’t see how you get Wag to talk and more importantly to listen to us
    so maybe that means this is the way to go
    the farmers have two unions and look how much power they have behind them
    is our side of the industry not as important as farming?

  8. Sian Be

    February 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    It’s good to have so many foodies agreeing.
    I don’t like unions either, but have we any other options?
    All we want is for Wag to talk to us on a regualr basis and maybe just as importantly to listen to what we are saying
    we’ve tried it their way and it don’t work

  9. brilliant

    February 25, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    if it gives us a voice to be heard you have to say yes
    otherwise nothing will improve for us

  10. chutney chap

    February 25, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    I’m not sure what other options are left open to us
    maybe a union is one body Wag can’t ignore
    welsh country magazine did organise a meeting ages and ages ago for their best of welsh people with Elin Jones. It was useful but not long enough for everyone to get their problems across before we were thrown out.
    I wonder if welsh country could be persuaded to do this again, maybe after the elections? It seems cheeky to ask them to do even more work when they already do so much for us food people. What do you think?

  11. jay

    March 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I have no time for unions but neither have I time for Wag
    If Wag cannot communicate or involve us in discussions about our industry then what other options do we have?
    I too don’t think it fair to ask Kath and her staff to do even more for us but I’m at at loss to think of another way.
    I couldn’t get to the meeting they held with Elin Jones, I wish I had but I have spoken to producers that did. It was a great idea and the magazine can only be congratulated for what they have achieved over the years with little help from Wag
    keep up this hard work if you can

  12. stressed

    March 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    We seem to be agreeing on this message or post
    No-one seems to want a union, but we all want Wag to listen to us and act in our best interest – but it still isn’t happening.
    What else can we do?
    I have met Kath a few times at various festivals and markets, but I do think it’s too cheeeky to ask her to sort this for ust? We need do need a solution but I cannot think of an easy one.

  13. Julie

    March 18, 2011 at 11:26 am

    If wag will not communicate with us or listen to us, what other options are there for us?
    Farmers are spoilt with NFU and FUW and both seem well-funded – we have nothing and no-one on our side apart from welsh country magazine. Without these guys you’d feel like Billie-No-Mates! Does anyone have a Regional Food Managers now? I thought there were four of them but not sure………..

  14. truth teller

    March 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    we are all in agreement or seem to be
    all envious of our feather-bedded farmers with two unions fighting for them and nothing at all for food producers
    well we have a choice – make a stand or just try and keep going
    with the possible lack of festivals it’s not hopeful