OTTAWA – The new pay-equity law the federal Liberals are proposing should close Canada’s “shameful” gender gap and private-sector employers should follow the government’s example, leaders of some of Canada’s biggest unions say.
Public Service Alliance of Canada president Chris Aylward says the legislation introduced earlier this week has been a long time coming: his organization first filed pay-equity complaints against the federal government in the 1970s.
“This new legislation, which creates an obligation for employers to eliminate gender-based wage discrimination, means 30-year legal battles to resolve pay-equity complaints will become a thing of the past,” said Aylward at a press conference Wednesday on Parliament Hill.
Under the proposed law, employers under federal jurisdiction would need to examine their compensation practices and ensure women and men receive equal pay for work of equal value.
Employers would be required to identify job classes, evaluate the work in each, and compare what they pay with what workers get in jobs dominated by men or by women.
The rules would apply to all federally regulated employers with 10 or more workers, which includes the federal public service, parliamentary workplaces, and the offices of the prime minister and other ministers. It also includes employers in parts of the private sector such as banks, marine shipping, ferry and port services and telecommunications. In all, about 900,000 Canadian workers will be covered.
Jobs that might be under close scrutiny because they are dominated by women include clerical and administrative jobs, marketing, sales and services. Also bank tellers, financial-sales representatives and accounting clerks.
It’s up to employers to determine whether a position has been undervalued and if the workers are due for pay adjustments.
Debi Daviau, the president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said her organization is confident the government, as an employer, “will show the way to all the private ones.”
Discrimination against women in the workforce still happens more often than is usually acknowledged, said Hassan Yussuff of the Canadian Labour Congress.
He said until employers have pay-equity plans in place, they can’t say they have ended discrimination in the workplace.
Johanne Perron of the Pay Equity Coalition said having federal legislation in place sends a strong message.
“It’s time for all provinces to have pay-equity legislation for both the public and private sectors.”