The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) welcomes the announcement made by the Honourable Laurie Scott, Minister of Labour, that the Ontario Government is keeping its promise to pause minimum wage at $14/hour.
Since its introduction in 2017, Bill 148 has been a significant concern for Ontario’s fruit, vegetable and greenhouse vegetable farmers. Labour costs represent a substantial portion of the cost to produce quality fresh fruits and vegetables for Ontario consumers and export markets. The increase from $11.60/hour to $14/hour on January 1, 2018 was a significant blow to the competitiveness of the sector, which competes with low cost imported produce.
“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% 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.”
The minimum wage increase is only one aspect of Bill 148 that was of concern to the fruit and vegetable sector. Other provisions, including scheduling requirements, and personal emergency leave also do not work well with the unique needs of outdoor, weather dependent production, or create unnecessary administrative burdens on farmers.
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.” Forth went on to say “addressing industry’s concerns with Bill 148 will hopefully reduce the future impact and allow farmers time to adapt to the current minimum wage.”
The OFVGA looks forward to providing input to the government on how future minimum wage increases are implemented and inform government on how labour policy impacts domestic production of fruits and vegetables.