Equal Pay Coalition uses anniversary to call for action to end widespread gender pay discrimination in Ontario
Toronto (5 Feb. 2008) – Ontario's Equal Pay Coalition is using the 20th Anniversary of Ontario’s Pay Equity Act to call on the Ontario Government and Opposition Leaders to end widespread pay discrimination against women in Ontario.
"In January 2008, the Pay Equity Act turned 20 years old", said Mary Cornish, Chair of the Equal Pay Coalition. "While the Act helped reduce the gap from 38% in 1985, women in Ontario, on average, still earn 29% less than men. Pay equity enforcement must be revitalized to deliver pay justice to the current generation of working women who weekly take home inequitable pay.”
"Ontario women receive less for their work regardless of where they work, the size of their workplace or the precariousness of their work," said Cornish. "Vulnerable women who are racialized, Aboriginal or have disabilities face even greater pay gaps. The pay gap continues into retirement with 42% of elderly women being poor," said Cornish.
"Women working in child care centres, small community based agencies, and battered women's shelters are being forced to work at discriminatory wages," said Andrea Calver, Acting Executive Director of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.
"This is because the Government stopped in 2005 the designated pay equity funding paid as a result of the 2003 challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, even though the pay gaps identified in the Act's plans had not yet been closed."
"Pay equity is equal pay for work of equal value and a fundamental human right guaranteed by ILO Convention 100, ratified by Canada in 1972," said Wayne Samuelson, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour. "This is an urgent problem. The union movement stands ready to work with the Ontario government and employers on this issue. But unions are serving warning that they will vigilantly enforce women's pay equity rights where effective actions are not taken."
Based on the Government's own figures, $369 million is owing to about 100,000 hard working women for delivering public services in predominantly female workplaces in 2006 and 2007. A further $77.6 million is owed in 2008 and about $1.32 billion from 2008-2011.
"Pay discrimination is contributing to Ontario's high poverty levels,” said John Argue, Coordinator of the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice. “With women segregated in undervalued job ghettoes and accounting for two-thirds of minimum wage earners, increasing that wage now to $10 per hour provides a speedy pay equity down payment to such workers. Effective measures to close the gender pay gap should be a key part of the Government's poverty reduction strategy," said Argue.
The Equal Pay Coalition, with its member organizations representing over one million Ontarians, is seeking meetings with the Minister of Labour, Minister of Finance and Minister Responsible for Women's Issues to discuss the Government's 20th Anniversary enforcement plans, including the following key requests:
- increasing the minimum wage to $10 per hour retroactive to January 1, 2008;
- full public funding of public sector pay equity adjustments; and,
- full funding of the Pay Equity Commission, the Hearings Tribunal and legal support services for those claiming pay equity violations.
The Coalition's campaign will continue throughout 2008 including February 14, February 18 - Family Day to mark the importance of pay equity to families, March 8 for International Women's Day and in workplaces throughout the year. NUPGE