OFVGA raises alarm about minimum wage increases

May 30, 2017 - Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers' Association

Today's announcement made by Kathleen Wynne, Ontario's premier, that the miniumum wage will rise to $14/hour as of January 1, 2018 and then $15/hour as of January 1, 2019 has negative consequences for the province's $1.5 billion horticultural industry.

"Sixty percent of growers' costs is attributed to labour," says Jay VanderHout, Chair of the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers' Association (OFVGA). "Our horticultural industry has no way of mitigating the impact. This announcement comes on the heels of cap-and-trade which further limits our competiveness in North American markets. This policy development threatens the existence of many farms and foretells of closures to come."

Fruit and vegetable growers rely heavily on seasonal agricultural labour to plant and harvest crops. These costs cannot be passed on to consumers, especially due to the consolidated power of grocer retailers in Canada. Ontario growers are at a competitive disadvantage with jurisdictions such as Mexico where workers earn $6 per day, an amount that an Ontario worker makes before 9:30 am.

The increase in minimum wage does not align with previous policy initiatives such as the premier's 120,000 Job Creation Challenge by 2020. Increasing costs for fruit and vegetable growers will make it impossible to create jobs. Increasing costs will hamper the ability to innovate going forward. Local food production is a priority, but this policy will close farms, says VanderHout.

"We are asking the provincial government to recognize the uniqueness of the edible horticulture industry and to create mitigating strategies such as an agricultural wage," says VanderHout. "In the absence of adhering to the 2014 framework of increasing the minimum wage responsibiliy and predictably in line with the Consumer Price Index, the horticultural sector needs an agricultural wage."

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For more information, contact Alison Robertson, Executive Director, OFVGA at 519-763-6160 ext 115 or arobertson@ofvga.org