The Ontario government has frozen Ontario’s minimum wage at $14, bringing praise from fruit and vegetable growers.
Fruit and vegetable growers, especially, have been hard hit by the former Liberal government’s increase of minimum wage from $11.60 per hour to $14 per hour on Jan. 1, 2018.
Why it matters: Increasing minimum wage by close to 30 per cent in two years was too quick for farm-sized businesses that use a lot of minimum-wage workers for harvest.
Another increase had been planned to move the minimum wage to $15 on Jan. 1, 2019, but now that won’t happen. Labour is a significant cost for fruit and vegetable growers around harvest time during picking and packing.
“I am really pleased that this government has recognized the impact of significant, unpredictable changes in minimum wages has on Ontario’s fruit and vegetable farmers,” says Jan VanderHout, chair of the OFVGA board of directors. “The over 20 per cent increase to minimum wage in 2018 is estimated to have cost the sector over $111 million this year alone. This is not economically sustainable in the long term.”
Laurie Scott, the minister of labour, announced the change this week.
Minimum wage provisions were not the only part of the Liberal Bill 148 that caused concern for fruit and vegetable growers.
Other areas like scheduling requirements and personal emergency leave are a challenge for outdoor, weather dependent products, says the OFVGA. It also means more administration costs for farms.
Ken Forth, chair of the OFVGA Labour Section and the Labour Issues Coordinating Committee says “the impact of Bill 148 is not yet fully known, but we have seen some farmers exit the business, and there will likely be more in the future.”
The provincial government also recently announced that premium rates for employers were going to be reduced by 30 per cent after the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) eliminated its unfunded liability.