Guest-Worker Program Made More Costly For Employers Because of the Changes
Just a couple of months after the anti-illegal immigration law of Alabama went into effect, a number of industries may soon find themselves paying more for a legal guest-worker program.
A change made by the U.S. Department of Labor to the government’s H-2B program will soon force employers who utilize the program to hire temporary workers to pay higher hourly wages, in some cases, more than 50%.
The actual fees will vary depending on the county and industry, but the consequences may be the same.
Larry Fidel, the president of the Alabama Restaurant Association, said, “The changes that are proposed virtually make the program unusable.”
The biggest pay hike may be in the forestry industry, which make use of the H-2B program to hire seasonal workers to perform reforesting tasks.
“Based on what we’ve seen, our planting cost is going to increase 50 to 60%,” said Jim King, the vice president of natural resources for the Westervelt Co, which oversees around 500,000 acres of forest lands situated in the Southeastern U.S., “
Contractors employing H-2B workers are used by Westervelt to plant trees. According to King, the current hourly wages vary from $7.25 to $8.37. With the increase brought about by the changes made by the Labor Department, it will range from $13.06 to $21.16.
King said, “We are, quite frankly, having a very difficult time figuring out how they’re coming up with this (formula).”