"If the Liberals believe pay equity is a human right, then it needs to be addressed today not in 2 years.If they believe that it is in the best interests of Canada to have women participating fully in our economic, social and democratic life then they need to make it happen now." — Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer
Ottawa (14 Oct. 2016) — October is known as Women's History Month. While the government encouraged people to consider who shaped their lives and share stories on social media, it was telling a different story to women across the country. Five days into October, 2 federal ministers joined with the President of the Treasury Board to reaffirm the Liberal government's commitment to pay equity.
Liberals reaffirm commitment to pay equity
"Having a gender wage gap in 2016 is unacceptable," said the Minister of Status of Women. "Pay equity is a human right," said the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour. The President of the Treasury Board, Scott Brison, went so far as to say that "to promote and protect the right of women to be full participants in the economic, social and democratic life of our country is in the best interest of all Canadians."
"The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) could not agree more," said Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE's Secretary-Treasurer. "Pay inequity is a major issue that contributes to rising income inequality in our country. We have campaigned for decades to have the government rectify this discrimination against women. It's time to do something."
Government unwilling to address pay equity for 2 years
Unfortunately, the Ministers took the opportunity to announce that the government will be embarking on "meaningful consultations and careful study of the issue" for the next 2 years.
"Waiting 2 years to implement pay equity is unacceptable," said Ballermann. "If the Liberals believe pay equity is a human right, then it needs addressing today not in 2 years. If they believe that it is in the best interests of Canada to have women participating in our economic, social and democratic life then they need to address it now."
"And the timing of the legislation is not lost on any of us," said Ballermann. "Tabling pay equity legislation right before the next federal election seems somewhat convenient for the government. Women of Canada need this now, not in 2018."
Previous pay equity report still relevant today
"We've been here before," Ballermann says. "In 2004, after 2 years of consultations and study, the most thorough report on pay equity, Pay Equity: A New Approach to a Fundamental Right, was completed. At the time, we called for the timely implementation of the recommendations. We are still waiting."
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) has written to the President of the Treasury Board, Scott Brison, and to the ministers to call for the implementation of the 2004 recommendations. "The Pay Equity Task Force report, submitted 12 years ago, laid out the blueprint to eliminate the current costly, complaints-based pay equity system, and to implement a proactive approach. We do not need to reinvent the wheel with another study," the letter reads.
"We already have the information from meaningful consultations and study," said Ballermann, "Unfortunately, not much has changed in the last 12 years for women. That's exactly why we cannot wait another 2 years to act. Pay equity is a human right. Government inaction penalizes women. Period."
Unions call on government to move quickly
NUPGE, through the CLC, calls on the government to
- table pay equity legislation immediately;
- establish a Pay Equity Commission with authority and resources to fully address pay equity;
- immediately repeal the former Conservative government's Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act.
"We are willing to work with the government to achieve these goals. The women of Canada cannot afford to wait any longer for economic justice," said Ballermann. "The time is now."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE