The University of British Columbia’s Karen Taylor, who works as an agricultural economist, has been retained by the provincial government to study agricultural piece rates and the minimum wages for farm workers who harvest crops by hand across the province. (Black Press files)

Agricultural economist to study wages for farm workers

According to an information bulletin released by the Ministry of Labour, the University of British Columbia’s Karen Taylor, who works as an agricultural economist, has been retained by the provincial government to study agricultural piece rates and the minimum wages for farm workers who harvest crops by hand across the province.

With existing work already been put in place, due to projects conducted by the Fair Wages Commission as part of its mandate to advise the government on minimum wages in British Columbia, Taylor is looking to expand their preliminary examinations.

Her findings will reportedly be provided to the Fair Wages Commission no later than Dec. 31 at the end of this year. The findings look to inform the commission’s recommendations to government on how to reform piece rates for agricultural workers.

In April earlier this year, the provincial government accepted recommendations put forward by the Fair Wages Commission on alternate minimum wages in B.C., with the exception of the one which regards farm workers who are paid through piece rates.

This came as the commission’s report noted some glaring gaps in information on B.C.’s piece-rate system, which has been in place for nearly 40 years and is unique in Canada.

Taylor will be looking to speak directly with farm workers and employers, all for the overarching goal of understanding their individual experiences with the current payment system.

Per the information bulletin, the time frame for previous consultations on the important issue, which was a two-month period of October and November in 2017, did not allow for these discussions as it was not during the harvest season.

Regardless, all piece rates will increase 11.5 per cent as of Jan. 1, 2019.

The Ministry of Labour worked in consultation with the Fair Wages Commission and the Ministry of Agriculture to facilitate the hiring of Taylor, who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Taylor is an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia who teaches agribusiness, is a member of the B.C. Institute of Agrologists and is a director on the Langley Sustainable Agriculture Foundation. She holds a PhD in agricultural economics and an MBA in agribusiness.

The independent Fair Wages Commission was established in October 2017. The commission has a mandate to advise government on an approach to raising provincial minimum wages, with increases that are regular, measured and predictable.

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