The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) welcomes the announcement made by the Ontario government outlining its plans for Bill 148.
Since its introduction in 2017, Bill 148 has been a significant concern for Ontario’s fruit, vegetable and greenhouse vegetable farmers. Labour represents a substantial portion of the cost required 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.
In addition, requirements for scheduling and emergency leave created additional administrative burdens, promoted an unreliable workforce, and did not work well with the unique needs of outdoor, weather dependent production. These provisions increased the cost of growing fresh fruits and vegetables in Ontario, beyond the additional $111 million per year cost created by the increase in minimum wage.
The OFVGA has been working hard to ensure the Ontario government understands the impact Bill 148 has on the competitiveness of Ontario’s fruit and vegetable farmers.
“While it is important that all workers have the opportunity to earn a living wage, Bill 148 put jobs, and more importantly, our domestic food security at risk,” says Jan VanderHout, chair of the OFVGA board of directors. “I know fruit and vegetable farmers are looking forward to a return to predictable labour policy and reasonable minimum wage increases tied to the consumer price index.”
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 “pausing minimum wage at $14 until 2020 will at least allow farmers to adapt their businesses to current labour costs and prepare for future increases, meaning more farmers can afford to remain in business.”
The OFVGA looks forward to seeing the amendments to Bill 148 implemented and appreciates the Ontario government’s commitment to keeping Ontario open for business.