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B.C. fruit, berry growers now have to pay workers more

Provincially mandated increase came into effect Jan. 1 in response to rising inflation
Workers picking 15 different types of fruits and vegetables including strawberries stand to earn more as their piece rates will rise starting Jan. 1 under a provincial mandate. (Black Press Media file photo)

Workers picking 15 different crops by hand - including several types of fruit grown on the Saanich Peninsula - stand to earn more in 2023.

The respective piece rates for 15 crops has gone up by 2.8 per cent on Jan. 1, 2023. The ministry of labour said in a release announcing the increase that it responds to the average inflation rate in British Columbia in 2021 and is consistent with the 2.8 per cent increase to the minimum hourly wage that came into effect on June 1, 2022.

The rate increase affects farms growing apples, apricots, beans, blueberries, Brussels sprouts, cherries, daffodils, grapes, mushrooms, peaches, pears, peas, prune plums, raspberries and strawberries. The Saanich Peninsula is home to several operations that grow raspberries and strawberries.

RELATED: Central Saanich farms generated $24.1 million in revenue in 2021

While each of these crops has its own rate, workers picking them must be paid at least the minimum piece rate. The piece rate work equals the piece rate times volume or weight picked.

While it is not clear how many workers will benefit from the increase, some 3,000 farms across B.C. employ workers who harvest crops by hand, according to a statement from the provincial ministry of labour.

It said that this measure will help to increase wages for some of the lowest paid workers in British Columbia, who are also facing rising costs from global inflation. The statement added that the ministry of labour continues to engage with the ministry of agriculture and food as well as growers of the 15 regulated crops to assess how the minimum piece rate system is operating with more information to share as ministry continues work on the piece rate crops.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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