The Ontario government recently announced extensive amendments to Bill 148, the former Liberal government’s labour and wage reform bill which included a phased-in minimum wage hike. Included in the new “Making Ontario Open for Business Act,” is a freeze on the next planned jump in the minimum wage, from $14/hour to $15/hour, until 2022.
The bill also eliminates the previously legislate two paid sick days and 10 personal emergency leave days and instead offers, “up to three days for personal illness, two for bereavement, and three for family responsibilities,” though all unpaid.
The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) has voiced significant concerns overBill 148 and what the impact it has had on Ontario’s fruit, vegetable and greenhouse vegetable farmers.
Because labour represents a substantial portion of the cost required to produce 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, the OFVGA says. The minimum wage increase resulted in a $111 million per year additional cost for the sector.
“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. 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.” — Jan VanderHout, chair of the OFVGA board of directors
“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.” — Ken Forth, chair of the OFVGA Labour Section and the Labour Issues Coordinating Committee