Good Fruit Grower

July 1

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Growers enjoy reprieve on piece rate G A government review found that pickers are well paid in British Columbia. by Peter Mitham rowers in British Columbia, Canada, won't have to pay har- vest labor any more this year for piece work than they did last year. The piece rate for harvest workers increased by 9.4 percent in 2011. A recent review commissioned by the B.C. Ministry of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government to compare piece rates that pickers receive against the province's min- imum wage found that pickers are paid well, and no further increases are needed for the foreseeable future. "Current piece rates are appropriate for both workers and employers," the province announced when the review was released this spring. "This decision to maintain current piece rates strikes a bal- ance to preserve jobs and businesses that B.C. families depend upon." The province's decision to not raise piece rates this season is good news for orchardists, said Christine Dendy, a Kelowna cherry grower. It will help grow- ers keep their costs in line, while the study underpinning the decision shows that By holding the line on piece rates, British Columbia has given growers the flexibility to pay piece rates that exceed the minimum wage, says orchardist Christine Dendy. workers already receive good wages for the work they do. "It's already guaranteeing that orchard workers can be earning a fairly decent wage far above minimum wage," Dendy said. "If the purpose of piece work is to ensure the minimum wage is met, it's doing that." Wages for piece labor typically repre- sent up to 13 percent of the farm-gate price of tree fruits. Cherries lead the list, with apples second in line at 11 percent. Grapes are last, with piece labor repre- senting just 5 percent of farm-gate prices. Still, the costs add up. Piece labor accounts for 27 percent of the production cost of grapes, and 24 per- cent of the cost of producing cherries. Piece labor takes the biggest bite of apple revenues, representing 33 percent of a grower's production costs. With many tree fruit growers facing a cash crunch, finding ways to hold labor costs in check is a key strategy for keeping production costs in line. The success of Canada's Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (foreign guest-worker program) is one example of a program that's taken 20 JULY 2012 GOOD FRUIT GROWER

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