Monday, October 07, 2013

Tractor work

click photo to enlarge
The other day I watched a tractor as it began to break up the surface of a field that had given up its wheat crop a few weeks ago. As the driver began his work I watched with incredulity as the vehicle reared up, stallion-like, on its large rear wheels, the front pair resting on nothing but several feet of fresh air. Clearly the weight that had been fixed to the front of the tractor was insufficient for the job in hand. After a few moments the tractor set off again and once more its front wheels went high in the air. The driver's tinkering with the front counter-balance weight was followed by a couple more less spectacular "take offs", and then, after a final adjustment that seemed to bring it under control, it settled down to slowly working up and down the field. As it got nearer to me I noticed that the weight had been moved well forward from the front wheels so that it offered a greater counter-force. Presumably the driver had miscalculated when making his original setting.

As I returned to my own work I reflected that it was only a few days ago that the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) was abolished by our incompetent and divisive coalition government. This organisation had the power to set the minimum pay rate and conditions for agricultural workers. It had done so successfully for many years, but this was not good enough for our deregulating government. From 1st October 2013 the national minimum wage and general employment law applies to agricultural work. The AWB was originally established because of the distinctive conditions of employment that apply to agricultural workers - for example, tied housing, the need for irregular hours and seasonal work. Watching the tractor driver I was reminded that statistics usually show agricultural employment (after fishing) at the top of any list of the most hazardous areas of work. Part of the reason for this is that people are often working alone with big, powerful machinery - such as tractors - or managing large, unco-operative animals. In many of the occupations that are placed lower on these lists, such as policing, the rate of remuneration reflects the danger of the job. As of this month that's very unlikely to be the case for farm workers, if indeed it ever was.

The tractor in today's photograph is resting after its days work. Presumably it wouldn't fit in the barn and the farmer seems to be using it as a barrier to prevent the theft of whatever else he's got in there.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14.2mm (38mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/4
ISO: 3200
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On