British Columbia ‘moving very cautiously’ on farm workers’ minimum wages'

As British C2qolumbia’s minimum wages rise to the highest of any Canadian province – $15.20 an hour effective June 1 – the Labor Ministry is continuing to study the piece-rate pay for harvesting crops that was last increased two years ago.

The Ministry had commissioned a study released in January 2019 as the piece rate was increased by 11.5 percent for 15 crops grown in B.C. The survey was done by agriculture consultant Karen Taylor; it estimated that the increase added $7.7 million annually to the cost for harvesting, as all growers reported a shortage of labor that held back their expansion. Almost all were exploring ways to increase mechanical harvesting and employing temporary foreign workers.

On Monday, Labor Minister Harry Bains growers now pay by the hour for up to five of the 15 crops subject to the piece rate, and more information is needed to go further.

Abbynews.com quoted Bains as saying: “We will be moving very cautiously because it is an area where we want to make sure that our agriculture industry continues to grow, with all the different challenges that they are facing, and at the same time the workers in the agriculture industry are also paid fair wages.”

Piece work is regulated in the province, mainly being used by fruit growers in the Thompson-Okanagan and berry and vegetable growers in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. Like previous studies, the 2019 report found some workers made less than the minimum hourly wage. Blueberry farms were paying the lowest rates, and grapes and cherries were paying the highest.

Photo source: Dreamstime.com


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