By Gregorio Billikopf Encina and Maxwell V. Norton from University of California
Does the way a vineyard pruner is paid--by the hour or at a piece rate--affect the speed and quality of the work done?
A 1985 study indicated that the speed of pruners paid at a piece rate was consistent: an individual who pruned quickly or slowly on a given day tended to work at that same pace on any other day. In contrast, a given pruner paid by the hour tended to work at the same speed as other hourly paid workers.
The main objective of our study in 1991 was to learn from growers how management and viticultural conditions affected pruning time and costs. Their perceptions on quality were also sought. Grower responses were based on vineyard data from winter 1990-1991.
Pay method (hourly versus piece rate) was the main management factor studied. Viticultural factors examined included vine age, spacing, vine vigor, trellis type, training system, and pruning method.
With the emphasis on the variability of individual pruners, the 1985 study did not determine differences in overall productivity between piece-rate and hourly paid crews.
The 1985 study did, however, examine variations in quality of pruning, but these differences seemed to depend on supervision rather than on pay method.