A submission by the
        British Columbia
    Federation of Labour

              May 2002

opeiu 15
                           FEDERAL TASK FORCE ON
                           PAY EQUITY
                           Thank you for the opportunity to make known our views on federal
                           pay equity legislation. We hope we will provide some practical

                           solutions and advice on this issue, and that it will enhance the work
                           of this Task Force.


                           T      he elimination of wage discrimination will help the poorest
                                  in our society, the largest percentage of whom are women
                                  and children. Eliminating this discrimination will create a
                           working environment that provides dignity and respect to those
                           workers who presently struggle to achieve pay equity, and will
                           create economic wealth for not only those workers directly
                           affected, but also for their families, communities and the country.

                           The federal legislation presently makes it unlawful to pay men and
                           women different wages for work of equal value. The present
                           complaint-based system, however, is unlikely and unable to result
                           in any significant lift in wages for the under-valued work many
                           women perform.

                           The labour movement has argued for many years that proactive
                           pay equity legislation is needed at all levels, federally and
                           provincially. This must form the starting point for any review, and
                           we hope this Task Force will address this issue first and foremost
                           in its work.

                           It is especially important that the federal government take the lead
                           in implementing proactive pay equity legislation, as many
                           provinces hold up the current and federal model as an unworkable
                           system. We believe this gives provincial and local governments
                           their justification in refusing to move forward on this important
                           legislation. In fact, the provincial government in BC as one of its
                           first acts of office last year repealed the provincial pay equity
                           legislation. This regressive move has set us back years, and we no
                           longer have an expectation that pay equity will be achieved here in
                           BC anytime in the near future.

    Just as many private sector employers refuse to comply with pay
    equity laws, and in fact do not believe they should even be covered
    by those laws, so does provincial legislation in many cases follow
    the legislative precedents set at the federal level.

    A prime example of the problems with complaint-based legislation
    can be found in the recent federal public service case, which took
    15 years to resolve. Fifteen years were spent in discussion,
    negotiation, mediation and finally years of litigation. The cost to
    the federal government was enormous, but the cost to the women
    who were forced to pursue their complaints through this
    cumbersome and onerous system was far greater. You will hear
    more about this case in presentations from the union involved in
    that case, the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

    Unions have been working on the ground on pay equity issues for
    decades, and the contribution of women's groups and other
    organizations with expertise in this field, will provide a valuable
    resource for the work of your Task Force.

    In 1998, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and
    Cultural Rights severely criticized Canada for failing to adequately
    protect women from wage discrimination. That Committee urged
    Canada to adopt the necessary measures to ensure women's
    economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to equal
    pay for work of equal value.

    It is not sufficient to have those rights on paper only. Canada must
    also ensure that women have access to those rights.

    Even the World Bank promotes closing the income gap between
    women and men as a means of improving women's economic

    In their March 2001 Report, "EnGendering Development Through
    Gender Equality Rights, Resources and Voice" the World Bank
    recognizes that countries with smaller gaps between women and
    men in areas such as education, employment and property rights
    not only have lower child malnutrition and mortality, they also
    have more transparent business and government, and faster
    economic growth which in turn helps to further narrow the gender
    gap. The evidence in this Report shows that societies that
    discriminate by gender pay a high price in terms of their ability to
    reduce poverty.

It is astonishing that in 1998, fifty percent of women in Canada
had after-tax incomes ranging from zero to $13,786, and only 11
percent had after-tax incomes over $32,367.1

Women shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden of
economic restructuring, which has led to a dramatic growth in part-
time and temporary jobs. More government cutbacks and
privatization will result in huge job losses for women in the
unionized public and private sectors, with an accompanying loss of
benefits, pension and security.

Women of colour fare even worse. Forty-three percent of
Aboriginal women are poor, as are 37 percent of visible minority

The long-term effect of low wages for women is severe poverty
among senior women. Government action now will ensure the
growing senior population has access to adequate pensions in the

Women are experiencing increased workloads, longer work hours,
more stress and, because of cutbacks to government spending,
more responsibility for the health care and education needs in their
communities through their unpaid labour.

All these factors work against women's economic equality, and
keep the gender gap wide.

According to 1998 Statistics Canada figures, the median wages for
full-time working non-unionized men was $31,278, compared to
$23,436 for women. The same category of unionized women earn
on average 25 percent more, more than double the median after-tax
earnings of women.


B      ased on years of experience, the labour movement can
       easily identify a set of underlying principles concerning the
       type of legislation required to actually achieve equal pay
for work of equal value.

Proactive legislation is much more effective at reducing the wage
gap than any other initiative, excepting unionization.

Source: 1998 Statistics Canada figures 1

    Proactive legislation works best because of the following

       1. It is based on a comprehensive approach to the problem;
       2. It recognizes the systemic nature of wage discrimination;
       3. It combines legislative mandates, collective bargaining and
          enforcement with a neutral adjudication of disputes;

       4. It makes the necessary structural organizational changes,
          and those changes become more durable; and

       5. It combines human rights and resource plans with

    Proactive pay equity legislation brings all parties to the table to
    deal with wage discrimination. Complaint-based models create
    adversaries and result in one party feeling like they have come out
    the "loser".

    This will require:

       •   Union involvement at every stage of plan development -
           with full access to all relevant pay equity information;
       •   The right of appeal to a government body if discussions
           break down;
       •   Review of any such appeal within a set time frame, or the
           right to proceed to the next level of the dispute resolution
       •   The right of non-unionized employees to participate in the
           plan development, or to select an agent to represent them in
           this process and through any dispute resolution procedure if
           agreement cannot be reached;
       •   Employee representatives on pay equity committees to be a
           representative of gender and race;
       •   No reprisals permitted nor tolerated against any employee
           or agent for their participation in any of these processes;
       •   Plan development to include a comprehensive educational
           component, so both employees, employers and any
           managers understand the need for the process, why it is
           being conducted, how it works and the basic principles of
           pay equity;

   •   An effective dispute resolution process, such as that set out
       in the Canadian Labour Congress submission to this federal
       Task Force; and

   •   Sufficient funding and expertise for general education, plan
       development, comparator research, sexism, racism and
       human rights in general. Specific funding must be
       allocated to the resolution of equal pay for work of equal
       value. It must not form part of general funding packages,
       but must be designated for use.


        ny law must apply to all women and minorities working in
        any aspect of federal jurisdiction. This must include full-
        time, part-time, casual and trainee employees. It must also
apply to work that is contracted out of the federal public sector. If
a business is sold, pay equity provisions must continue to apply
despite the change in ownership. Businesses must not be able to
dodge their responsibilities to their workers simply by selling off
or declaring bankruptcy.

All predominantly female establishments must be included, and
outside comparators must be set into the legislation in order to
provide a framework for agreement.

Race-based discrimination must be eliminated, and any federal law
must recognize and encompass this. In order for economic
equality to be achieved, any law must address the issue of
occupational segregation not only by gender but also by ethnic
origin of the workforce.

Government must make these points their priority in legislation.
Opponents of pay equity say they will not negotiate specific
provisions, yet other opponents say that this only belongs at the
bargaining table. We disagree. This is an equality rights issue,
and women who are already being victimized by employers who
refuse to live up to their obligations must not be further victimized
by being forced to go through a lengthy complaint process where
the balance of power rests with their employer.


        n order to be effective, pro-active pay equity legislation must
        contain a number of key components.

      •    Gender-neutral job comparisons, rather than cumbersome
           "job evaluation" schemes;
      •    Criteria must continue to include skill, effort, responsibility
           and working conditions, but others could be added;
      •    Research and review must be produced quickly and must
           not impede the movement toward proactive pay equity
      •    All parties must be involved in the development of the
           plans, with a resulting common system for comparisons;
      •    The definition of "pay" must include all wages, benefits,
           perquisites, incentives and bonuses, including new and
           hidden payments such as retention pay;
      •    Pay equity programs must be maintained, and provisions
           must be put in place to cover the establishment of new jobs,
           the sale of a business, changes in job descriptions and other
           such eventualities. Employers must not be able to escape
           their obligations through business dealings;
      •    Plans must be filed with a government agency, and clearly
           posted in the workplace where employees have access;
      •    New employees must be given education and training on
           established plans;
      •    Clear timelines must be established within which pay
           equity must be achieved. This includes set time frames for
           education, establishment, working with employees, dispute
           resolution and payouts. Clear penalties must be set out for
           a failure to meet any such obligation, or there will be no
           incentive to fulfill these obligations; and
      •    Monitoring of progress, as well as monitoring of
           established plans, must be carried out.


     ther legislation can be improved in concert with
     improvements to pay equity law, giving women access to
     increased economic equality:

 •   Unionization - easier access to unionization through
     improvements to the Canada Labour Code has an
     immediate impact on women's wages. A unionized woman
     makes on average $6 an hour more than a woman working
     in the non-union sector;

 •   Education - women tend to be poorer, and therefore have
     less financial resources to access post-secondary education.
     The government must direct more funding to the provinces
     to ensure there is equal access to post-secondary

 •   Training - as provincial budgets get tight, so do funds for
     training programs for women. Citing budget constraints,
     the BC government recently cut all welfare-to-work
     programs, having a devastating effect on women who
     would like to enter or re-enter the workforce. In addition,
     the federal government cut many programs and incentives
     under the Employment Insurance Program, resulting in lost
     opportunities for many Canadians, especially women and
     visible minorities;

 •   Social Housing Initiatives - The federal government has
     drastically cut these programs, and further cuts are taking
     place at the provincial level, making it much more difficult
     for women to secure affordable housing. This is especially
     true for single mothers, young and senior women;

 •   Child and Elder Care - These responsibilities most often
     fall to women, yet this government has fallen down on its
     commitment to a national child care strategy; and

 •   Health Care Funding - The federal government must re-
     establish its commitment to a publicly-funded, universally
     accessible health care system as set out in the Canada
     Health Act. Continued under-funding to the provinces is

             having a devastating impact on the poorest in our society.
             Programs which enhance the economic opportunities for
             lower-paid workers in our society - they're the first to go
             when budgets get cut. Transfer payments must be

    These initiatives must be implemented or enhanced if we are to see
    women achieve economic equality and full participation in the
    labour market.

    We hope that was the goal of our federal government in
    establishing this Task Force.


    ____________________                           ___________________
    JIM SINCLAIR                                   ANGELA SCHIRA
    President                                      Secretary-Treasurer

    OPEIU 15
    P:\Archive\2002Files\0500-02br-AS-pay equity may1.doc


To top