The Stable Lads Associations request for a 15% increase in minimum pay rates for Britain's stable staff was ruled out by trainers who did concede a maximum 6% rise. Weekly minimum rates for Grade A and B stable employees will rise by 6%, beginning Feb. 1, to £223.14 and £196.18 respectively, while 16 and 17-year-olds will gain a 3% increase to £122.49. Rupert Arnold, chief executive of the National Trainers' Federation which negotiates with the SLA, said: "The 6% increase in minimum rates of pay for stable staff confirms the continuation of positive progress on rewards to racing's key workers. For the fourth year in a row, the NTF has agreed to an increase above the rate of inflation...reflecting the importance we place on ensuring that staff are rewarded for the valuable role they play and that employment in racing remains competitive with other sectors of industry. "A recent NTF pay survey found that nearly 90% of Grade A staff were paid more than the minimum rates," Arnold continued. "The median basic weekly wage of staff in the survey was £284 before all extras. In addition, 45% of Grade A staff received free or subsidized accommodation. British stable staff also received nearly £5-million in 2003 from their share in prize money (up by nearly £600,000 compared to 2002.) Additional payments are made for hours spent away from the yard outside their normal working hours. Stable staff also qualify for a non-contributory pension scheme and a jointly funded accident benefit scheme. It came as no surprise that the SLA team were determined to drive a hard bargain this year. However, their initial demand for a 15% raise for Grade A staff was simply unrealistic." Trainers collectively have been under increasing pressure to pay staff more, with Britain's daily racing paper, the Racing Post, highlighting often poor pay and conditions plus long hours in a campaign, while the British Horseracing Board set up an inquiry into staffing in the summer.