Pay Equity

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					                                                      “We have taught the world that ‘woman power’ is about the cheapest power on earth. We never
                                                      put a value on the labour which goes into this or that task.”
                                                      – Violet McNaughton, journalist and first president of the Women Grain Growers in Saskatchewan

                                                      Pay Equity

                                                      What is pay equity?                               There are factors other than sex discrimination
                                                                                                        that explain why gendered wage inequities
                                                      Simply put, pay equity is the right to equal      persist. However, effective and proactive pay
                                                      pay for work of equal value.                      equity legislation is one of the few tools that
                                                      In practical terms, pay equity is a compensa-     forces employers to examine why employees
                                                      tion practice that requires an employer to pay    in traditionally female jobs may be paid less
                                                      employees the same wage to male and female        than other employees.
                                                      employees who are performing work of equal        There ought to be a law
                                                      or comparable value. It is a broader and more
                                                      complex concept than equal pay legislation        Like employment standards legislation,
                                                      which requires employers to pay employees         whether you’re covered by a pay equity law
                                                      the same wage for the same or substantially       depends on which province you work in.
                                                      similar work.
                                                                                                        In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a number
                                                      Determining what is equal or comparable           of provinces adopted pay equity legislation,
                                                      work requires an employer to first establish      although not everyone is covered, particularly
                                                      male and female job classes, determine the        workers in the private sector. Manitoba,
                                                      value of jobs using a gender-neutral evalu-       New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI have
                                                      ation system, and compare the job classes to      pay equity legislation that covers public
                                                      identify any disparities. As a result, pay        service employees. There are pay equity
                                                      equity can be a subjective process fraught with   policy frameworks in British Columbia and
                                                      disagreements over the values of seemingly        Saskatchewan, and pay equity negotiations
                                                      unrelated jobs, while equal pay legislation       with public sector unions in Newfoundland,
                                                      involves the relatively simpler task of           but no actual laws compelling employers to
                                                      comparing similar or the same jobs.               ensure there is pay equity in their compensa-
                                                                                                        tion practices. Ontario and Quebec are the
                                                      Why it is important?                              only provinces with comprehensive pro-active
                                                      Canada’s continuing gendered pay inequity         pay equity legislation that covers both the
                                                      means that many women earn less than they         private and public sectors.1 Furthermore,
                                                      should. Lower salaries for women is an            Quebec has recently tabled legislation to
                                                      integral part of the feminization of poverty.     strengthen its pay equity law.

                                                      Both in the past and in the present, women        The federal government is moving in the
                                                      have earned less than men, particularly           opposite direction and undermining the
Educational Handout Series – Pay Equity (07/09) 1/2

                                                      women who have jobs that are historically         statutory entitlement to pay equity. Following
                                                      female dominated such as nursing, teaching,       the 2004 report of the Pay Equity Task Force,
                                                      cleaning, or clerical work. Although the wage     the federal government has been under
                                                      gap between men and women in Canada has           pressure to adopt stand alone pay equity
                                                      narrowed in the past ten years, women still       legislation similar to Ontario or Quebec’s.
                                                      only earn approximately 79 cents for every        However, the federal government has recently
                                                      dollar earned by men. For Aboriginal women,       adopted watered-down, stand-alone pay
                                                      women of colour and racialized or new im-         equity legislation for the public service
                                                      migrant women, the wage gap between their         (private sector employees will continue to
                                                      earnings and the earnings of white men is even    be covered by the pay equity provisions in
                                                      greater than the wage gap between white men       the Canadian Human Rights Act.) The new
                                                      and white women.                                  Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act:

                                                          In workplaces of 10 people or more
                                                            • Waters down the definitions of female job        Court accepted LEAF’s arguments that the
                                                              classes and the value of work.                   Newfoundland government discriminated
                                                                                                               against female workers by paying them
                                                            • Redirects any employee pay equity                unequal wages which was contrary to
                                                              complaints from the Canadian Human               section 15 of the Charter. However, the
                                                              Rights Commission to the Public                  Court ultimately ruled that this was justifi-
                                                              Service Labour Relations Board.                  able under section 1 of the Charter because
                                                              Unions, traditionally the organization           discrimination against women was justified
                                                              that filed pay equity complaints on behalf       in this case if a severe fiscal deficit overrides
                                                              of its members, will be fined if they            the government’s obligation to remedy
                                                              assist employees with a complaint.               wage discrimination.
                                                            • Makes pay equity a bargaining issue to           The decision in NAPE shows how much work
                                                              be dealt with by unions and the Treasury         LEAF has yet to do in the area of equality
                                                              Board as part of the collective bargaining       rights and social justice. The new federal pay
                                                              process, thus making it possible for the         equity legislation also shows that increased
                                                              most vulnerable workers to have their            efforts in the area of law reform are necessary.
                                                              right to pay equity traded for some other
                                                              benefit at the bargaining table.                 Resources
                                                          This new law is a step backwards in the              Government Resources
                                                          struggle for pay equity, and it will likely face     Ontario Pay Equity Commission
                                                          a court challenge to see if it is a constitutional   Federal Pay Equity Program
                                                          change. Pay equity, after all, is also a right       labour/equality/pay_equity/about/index.shtml
                                                          protected by the equality provisions in the          Canadian Human Rights Commission
                                                          Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.             payequity_paritesalariale-en.asp

                                                          LEAF and Pay Equity                                  Union and NGO Resources
                                                                                                               Equal Pay Coalition
                                                                                                               Canadian Labour Congress
                                                          LEAF has been involved in several pay      
                                                          equity cases before the courts.                      Public Service Alliance of Canada
                                                          In Haldimand-Norfolk Regional Board of
                                                          Commissioners of Police et al v. Ontario             Pay Equity, Laws and Policies
                                                                                                               Federal: Human Rights Code
                                                          Nurses Association et al (1990), the Ontario
                                                          Nurses Association successfully argued               British Columbia: Human Rights Code
                                                          before the new Pay Equity Tribunal that              Manitoba: Pay Equity Act
                                                          nurses should be in the same compara-                statutes/ccsm/p013e.php
                                                          tor class as police in the municipality of           New Brunswick: Pay Equity Act
                                                          Haldimand-Norfolk. LEAF sponsored the                Newfoundland and Labrador: An Act Respecting the Protection
                                                          intervention of the Equal Pay Coalition which        of Human Rights
                                                          argued that the purpose of the newly enacted         Nova-Scotia: Pay Equity Act
                                                          Ontario Pay Equity Act was to promote
Educational Handout Series – Pay Equity (07/09) 2/2

                                                                                                               Ontario: Pay Equity Act
                                                          equality for women and that a new interpre-
                                                          tation of the Act to exclude a larger number         Prince Edward Island: Pay Equity Act
                                                          of women from its benefits would be incon-           Quebec: Pay Equity Act
                                                          sistent with section 15 of the Charter. The
                                                          decision was upheld by the Ontario Court of          Saskatchewan: The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code
                                                          Appeal.                                              S24-1.pdf
                                                                                                               Yukon: Human Rights Act
                                                          LEAF intervened in NAPE (Newfoundland                sta/116/20041124/whole.html
                                                          Association of Public Employees) v. Newfoundland
                                                          before the Supreme Court of Canada. The

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