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Horse Racing: Talks on wages for stable staff break down; Acting SLA chief expresses frustration with trainers.

Byline: By Graham Green

WAGE talks between Britain's trainers and their stable staff broke down yesterday amid acrimonious remarks from representatives of the huge workforce.

The acting head of the Stable Lads' Association, Viv Baldwin, went public with her frustration at the cessation of talks regarding implementation of a new memorandum of agreement with trainers aimed at modernising wages and conditions from October 1.

A statement from SLA headquarters in Derbyshire claimed the draft memorandum has been "totally rejected" by the National Trainers' Federation, which was "only prepared to base negotiations on the memorandum and on retail price index increases only".

Among the proposals on the table were a standard working week of 40 hours with all additional hours being paid at time and a half, and with at least one continuous 48-hour break per month.

The document also called for discussion across a wide range of areas, including increased payments for Sunday racing and racing abroad, a rise in holiday entitlement, and the establishment of a link with agricultural workers' wages, with a requirement for training to enable higher grades to be achieved.

Baldwin said: "The existing memorandum has been in place since about 1986, and each year they just tweak it a little bit, but in view of the Donoughue report on conditions for stable staff that criticised the SLA for not pursuing its members' interests, I spent some time over the Christmas period drafting a new memorandum for the national committee.

"The national committee made some changes, and then we put it forward to the NTF for discussion with a view to implementation at the beginning of October, but now the NTF has responded to our document by basically saying it doesn't want to talk about the new memorandum, it will only talk about the old one, and it will only give us a pay rise in line with inflation."

Baldwin added: "It is extremely frustrating that the NTF doesn't seem prepared to negotiate with us."

She said that further discussions will now be put on hold until the appointment of a SLA chief executive this summer.

Four candidates are vying for the new post created after the departure of Bill Adams after a 20-year reign as national secretary.

NTF chief executive Rupert Arnold, voicing his surprise at the SLA's move, said: "As it was our first response to the SLA's claim it was surprising that the SLA has decided to withdraw from the process so quickly.

"We would have been happy to continue examining more options for the memorandum of agreement but we appreciate the SLA wishes to give its new chief executive a free rein and we look forward to resuming talks once he is appointed."

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Rupert Arnold: voiced surprise at SLA's move
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 15, 2007
Words:460
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