FARM workers were out in force in Oxford yesterday to protest about changes to their wage structure.

At the moment their pay is set by the Agricultural Wages Board but this is due to be scrapped by the Government and farm workers will be paid the national minimum wage.

The current set-up means farm workers are paid over six grades based on qualifications and experience with pay ranging from £6.21 an hour to £9.40 an hour.

Non-farm workers paid the national minimum wage receive £6.19 an hour.

A protest against the changes took place outside the Oxford Farming Conference in the Oxford University Examination Schools in High Street.

Steve Leniec, a farm worker from Faringdon and chairman of Unite’s agricultural sector, said: “It will be a disaster for our workers and for the rural economy.

“Farming is an industry in which we are expected to work in all weathers seven days a week and living in any rural community is more expensive.”

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson, who attended the conference, said: “This has long been coalition policy. We now have a minimum wage and a whole raft of employment legislation.”

He added that he had gone in through a different door and had not seen the protesters.