Following an in-depth review, piece rates for hand-harvested crops listed in the employment standards regulation will remain unchanged as the review found current piece rates are appropriate for both workers and employers.
In early 2011, government initiated a stakeholder engagement process to discuss the Employment Standards Act, which included representatives from agriculture producers and worker advocates. During that process, it was determined that there was a need to review piece rates for hand harvesters.
On May 1, 2011, piece rates were increased in proportion to the increase in the general minimum wage - by 9.375 per cent. Following that increase, a review on piece rates was undertaken by government.
The review found that:
- Overall, many hand harvesters of crops subject to the minimum piece rates earn well above the general minimum hourly wage. For example, the average wage for cherry harvesters is $18.50 per hour. For apples, it is $15.43.
- For the blueberry sector, the largest sector in the Lower Mainland, the average wage is $9.91 per hour.
- The demographics of the workforce are quite different between the Interior and Lower Mainland. In the Lower Mainland, a high proportion of workers are over age 55, which may be a factor in the lower average earnings for Lower Mainland crops.
- A decision to maintain current piece rates would more likely preserve hand-harvesting jobs in the Lower Mainland by reducing the incentive for producers to use machine harvesting or other sources of labour.
The B.C. government is committed to protecting the health and safety of farm workers.
This decision to maintain current piece rates strikes a balance to preserve jobs and businesses that B.C. families depend upon.
The farm labour team will continue to conduct site visits and payroll audits, participate in roadside vehicle inspections and conduct education sessions with employers and employees.
The report can be found at: http://www.gov.bc.ca/citz/reports_publications.html
Ministry of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government