Ag may get help for $15 minimum wage

Premier Kathleen Wynne and owner Greg DeVries listen as a staff member at Truly Green explains part of the greenhouse operation.

Greg DeVries is worried about the increasing minimum wage but Ontario’s premier says there may be help coming for agriculture.
The Dresden man who operates greenhouses in Chatham and Dresden isn’t opposed to wages rising, he’s just worried what effect it will have on his operation. Truly Green for example employs over 200 people. “Our labour cost will increase 32 per cent in a short period of time,” DeVries says.
Forty per cent of greenhouse operators’ costs are labour, he added.
The province’s plan was one of the first issues he and several other greenhouse operators from Chatham-Kent and Essex raised when Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne made a stop at DeVries’ Chatham complex during a stop in Chatham-Kent Thursday.
Wynne had a brief tour of the operation and DeVries thanked her for a new hydro rate reduction program which will lower hydro costs for greenhouse growers.
He and the other growers then met privately with Wynne.
When she emerged, the premier told reporters she understands the challenge greenhouse operators are facing.
“I know there is a transition these businesses are going to go through,” she says. “I have committed to working with them.”
“I made it clear the $15 per hour minimum wage and the changes we’re making to the labour laws are about helping people to look after their families and being able to look after themselves. So we’re going to move ahead. But we also know there are certain sectors that are particularly challenged… so we need to find a way to help them.”
But the premier says changing the 18-month timeline to increase minimum wage is not an option.
“We’re looking at what are the other supports we can put in place.” Wynne says the agriculture minister will be looking at ways to help agriculture through the transition.
DeVries is pleased the premier seemed to understand their concerns and added he’s willing to work with the agriculture minister to find a way to help greenhouse operators deal with the mounting wage costs.