Buckerfields commits to “living wage” for employees

Duncan-based company said it was the right thing to do

Many of the employees at Duncan-based Buckerfields’ stores in B.C. are getting raises.

Buckerfields has announced that, as of Sept. 2, all its full-time staff at its eight stores on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland, Okanagan and Shuswap will be paid according to a “living wage” scale.

A living wage is a standard of pay based on actual living costs in a given region.

Social Planning Cowichan recently released its living wage for the Cowichan Valley for 2017.

According to the SPC, the living wage of a typical family of four, with two parents and two children, in the Cowichan Valley is $19.05 per hour

And that’s with both parents working for that wage at 35 hours a week each.

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The province’s minimum wage is currently set at $10.85 an hour, but will increase to $11.35 an hour as of Sept. 15.

Buckerfields’ CEO Kelvin McCulloch said that by comparison, Buckerfields lowest regional ‘living wage’ after one year of full-time employment is now $16.73 per hour, plus an additional $1.69 in living costs paid through the company’s benefits program.

He said part-time employees start at $14.75 per hour and all pay rates are expected to increase annually according to the BC Consumer Price Index.

McCulloch said Buckerfields employees also participate in the company’s $1 dollar per hour Sales Bonus program, the Employee Discount program for store purchases and the company supplies various work wear, safety items and pet food to employees free of charge.

He said the company has been working on developing a consistent pay scale across all the stores since 2005.

“First, we had to build up the company so the pay scale was actually affordable,” he said.

“Every year we increased and levelled wages as much as possible. This year we hit upon the concept of the living wage. We realized it was the right thing to do and we could do it. Notices of pay increases went out to store employees in the last week of August.”

McCulloch said he expects the wage increase will see the company’s expenses for employees rise by approximately 10 per cent a year; but it’s worth it.

“We have senior people who have been working for Buckerfields for 20 to 25 years who are excellent customer service people and are really ambassadors for the company, and they should be paid accordingly,” he said.

“It’s also a fact that we’re beginning to have trouble finding good new people to work for us. The baby-boom bulge is now almost over and the labour market is getting tight. We want to be competitive and get the best people who will want to stay with us a long time. In the end, it will save the company money because we won’t have to start over every time an employee moves on.”