June 9, 2017
Volume 17, Issue 12
Warning: Some of the facts in this edition may be subject to politics
How Will Promised $15.00 Minimum Wage Affect Tree Planting?
Assuming we may soon be setting our sails for new political winds in the province many contractors, especially tree planting employers, have to be thinking about the promise of an increased minimum wage. The caucus agreement between the provincial NDP and the BC Green Party calls for a Fair Wage Commission to “establish a pathway to a $15.00 minimum wage” and to do that within 90 days of its first meeting. It will be a priority for our B.C. government with John Horgan as premier.
Piece-work silviculture workers are included under the Employment Standards Regulation, something the then Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Associated negotiated near the end of the last NDP government. Employees are entitled to a minimum wage calculation for all hours of work based on a formula laid out in a special silviculture regulation. Here is one example of the effect of the raised wage that crossed our desk recently. “Using the ESA 37.9 formula, based on 11-hour days. Assign 8 hours per day for hours 1-8, and 4.5 hours for hours 9-11 (calculated at time X 1.5). Then add 4% vacation and 4% stat. You get 202.50 per day. So, $2227.50 as a base bi-weekly rate, assuming 11 days in the pay period. $2430 if there are 12 days in the pay period. Any planter not reaching that based on production would be entitled to a top-up on their wages.”
Long work days—a work day is calculated for minimum wage as “portal to portal” meaning generally that the time spent traveling to and from the worksite from camp or hotel is included as hours of work—are not unusual for the sector. Experienced employees routinely exceed the minimum wage as piece workers. In fact they wouldn’t plant trees if they couldn’t make substantially more than, say, $200 per day for their considerable effort and skill. But that is not the case for all workers, especially rookies. They may take weeks to achieve minimum wage earnings through production. That puts the employer in the position of having to make up the difference. One question is whether the higher minimum wage payable might undermine some workers incentive to produce to their employer’s expectations. But a more important consideration is the amount of ongoing employer payroll shirking commonly reported to us by workers. They describe waiting for weeks and months for payment, doctored hours of work and other manipulations to avoid overtime and minimum wage payments from some employers. Considering the increasing costs of meeting minimum wage obligations properly the numerous scofflaws in the industry will have to be brought in line for there to be fair competition and compliance with the new law, or the existing one for that matter.
Growing “Bungee-Logging” Will Affect Planning and Silviculture Work
The use of tethered harvesting equipment to fell, bunch, and extract wood on steep slopes is growing across the province. One of the immediate advantages is that it could be much safer than hand falling. The provincial injury rate for hand falling in 2015 was 29.4 or one in three. For mechanized falling it’s 1.7 or one in 60 that same year. Now with the rapid growth of steep slope winch-assisted harvesting, industry and WorkSafeBC want to keep that mechanized falling injury rate where it is, if not lower. In particular with introducing a new technology there is vulnerable period when experience and the resulting learned competency have to be kept from coming at too high a cost i.e serious incidents and failures. Mitigating this risk through developing occupational competencies and the training to support them are all part of an ongoing collaborative effort between the BC Forest Safety Council, FP Innovations, WorkSafeBC and operators. For the foresters and consultants who lay out blocks for this kind of operation there will be new considerations and guidance to follow as well. For silviculture crews the reduced number of roads on steep winch-assist harvest sites may pose new variables for crew logistics and stock handling. There are other critical uncertainties attached to this method as well. Will it make more wood volume available economically and mitigate the supply problem in some regions? Will it significantly affect the number of hand fallers we may need in the province? We seem to be on track to finding out over the next few years, if we can keep the equipment right side up.
WFCA.ca Now Features Members’ Service Directory
One of the advantages of no longer being the WSCA is that we won’t have to field enquiries from people looking up the Wisconsin School Counselors Association. What do we know about high school students’ study habits anyway? The other advantage is with consulting foresters on board we now have an impetus to upgrade our WFCA.ca website so it will no longer be just a pull-out on the information highway. Hey, when was the last time anyone called the internet the information highway? We may still be dated a little on this social media thing.
Taking our lead from the former Consulting Foresters of BC website services directory our new improved and expanded (and nice looking) version features forestry consultants, silviculture contractors and service and product supplier associate members. If you haven’t replied to our request to update your corporate profile and provide a corporate logo already this would be a good time to do that. And, of course, if you do counseling on career choices for young people we can link you with Wisconsin.