Kevin McColloch in front of the Buckerfields location in Duncan. (Robert Barron photo)

Kevin McColloch in front of the Buckerfields location in Duncan. (Robert Barron photo)

Kudos to Buckerfields for living wage change

Decision to implement living wage for workers to be commended

My first contact with Kelvin McCulloch was back in 2014 when I was working with the Nanaimo Daily News.

McCulloch, CEO of the Duncan-based Buckerfield’s Ltd., was locking horns with the provincial government over its decision to allow the Ontario-based Multi Materials B.C. to take control of the province’s recycling program.

McCulloch and Buckerfields were vocal members of a growing list of businesses from a number of sectors all across B. C. that joined forces at the time in a mostly unsuccessful effort to have the government reconsider its decision to give the responsibility of running the province’s recycling program to a private company.

I remember that he expressed his deep concerns to me that the change would result in job losses, business failures and increased costs for B.C. businesses and households.

I’m not sure what impacts the switch to a private recycling operator really had, or is having, in B.C., but I was impressed with the man’s unwavering commitment to the people and businesses in the province over the issue, and the efforts he personally took to do what he felt was right.

I met McCulloch face to face for the first time just last week on a separate issue, and he, once again, greatly impressed me with his commitment to do the right thing.

The issue this time was the disparity between the “living wage” in the Cowichan Valley and in other locations across B.C. compared to the province’s minimum wage, which will increase to $11.35 an hour as of Sept. 15.

But the living wage, a standard of pay based on actual living costs in a given region, was recently set at $19.05 an hour in the Cowichan Valley by Social Planning Cowichan.

Noting the disparity between the living wage and what people actually make, McCulloch and Buckerfields announced last week that, as of Sept. 2, all its full-time staff at its eight stores on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland will be paid according to a living wage scale for the first time.

That means that after one year of full-time employment, Buckerfields will now pay staff $16.73 per hour, plus an additional $1.69 in living costs paid through the company’s benefits program.

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

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.

McCulloch told me that it’s estimated that the decision will increase Buckerfields’ employee expenses by about 10 per cent, but made it quite clear that he believes it’s worth it.

He said it’s a win-win situation for everyone as the employees will get the wages they deserve, and the company will be able to hold on to good and experienced people for many years of their working lives.

That means the ongoing disruptions of long-term employees leaving to seek out better-paying employment, and the costs to the company of constantly having to bring in new people that have to be trained to replace them, can be largely avoided.

The strategy makes sense in a working world where companies often seek to pay as little as they can in efforts to increase profits, but only end up with unhappy employees and having to pay more to cover the costs of low morale, less efficient workers and employee replacements.

So kudos to McCulloch and the Buckerfields organization for their long-term strategy to provide a healthy workplace and good wages to its employees.

I just hope more companies and employers pay attention.