BC made good on plans to achieve a $15 minimum wage this week, with the hourly minimum rising 60 cents to $15.20 an hour June 1.
The increase was the final step in an aggressive plan the province announced in 2018, following a report of the BC Fair Wages Commission. The report recommended moving towards what was then considered a fair, or living, wage.
However, many farm groups have objected, noting that it is one of the highest in North America and puts them at a competitive disadvantage versus other jurisdictions. Delegates to the BC Fruit Growers Association convention earlier this year called on the province to freeze the minimum wage to prevent further hardship to their sector, which has been struggling with low returns.
The minimum wage is the baseline for compensation to foreign workers, and also sets the standard for piece rates. But the piece rate pays above minimum wage in most sectors, according to a 2019 study the province commissioned. Workers in the Thompson-Okanagan region – primarily fruit harvesters – expressed 94% satisfaction with the piece rate, with 87% saying they wouldn’t do the work if paid minimum wage.
While the province has said it wants to adjust piece rates for some crops to align more closely with the minimum wage, it paused those plans last year in response to COVID-19. It has yet to announce any changes to the piece rate schedule.