Pay equity - Canada moves back, U.S. forward

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martin dufresne
Pay equity - Canada moves back, U.S. forward

What a bloody shame! Iggy is about to vote against a Bloc québécois amendment designed to protect pay equity from the Harper govt.

Summary of the Flaherty Budget's attack on pay equity:

"The budget retains one of the two most controversial proposals from the government's failed economic update: an all out attack on pay equity. The fall update abolished the right to appeal pay equity cases to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and put pay equity on the table as a bargaining chip in employer-union negotiations. Human rights are not frivolities to be enjoyed only in good times. They are inherent, universal, and immutable rights naturally endowed to all human beings." Source

Meanwhile, down South,

Obama vindicates Lilly Ledbetter by signing equal pay bill:

"Equal pay is by no means just a women's issue, it's a family issue," Obama said. "And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month's paycheck to simple and plain discrimination."


The more I think about this and the fact that collective agreements, signed by representatives of the Harper government, are being over-ridden by legislation, the sicker I feel. I've been searching for discussions on these two issues, checking the PSAC website, etc, but haven't seen much of anything, with the exception of the odd press release. Perhaps those parties concerned are working on their strategies...I hope that's the case.


Pride for Red D...

So this means that a human right is now negotiable, and the onus is on the employer and the union ? There's no recourse ?


Also in light of this budget, I've been wondering why a person who is part time does not wualify for UI. 

Maysie Maysie's picture

The way our system works is, human rights are granted by governments, and by that logic, can be taken away.

Obviously I don't agree that any given universal human right can be granted and then removed, but that is exactly what happens.

Pay equity was the law. It benefits all by increasing the wages of jobs that have been traditionally underpaid due to systemic sexism. 

It *is* sickening what the Harper government continues to do with the full support of the Liberals. 



Is there any way to challenge this in court, on constitutional grounds?

Refuge Refuge's picture

Michelle wrote:

Is there any way to challenge this in court, on constitutional grounds?

If you are talking the decision to take away the panel, no, it was put in by the government and so can be taken away by the government. 

If you are talking women getting equal pay, yes.  The way that is worked before was that women on an individual basis had to fight through the court system to get equeal pay for their job.  When they finally got to the top it had taken so long that most times they were no longer even at their jobs. 

 What was formed was a Human Rights Commission so that woman could go directly there and get a much faster response than spending the time and money in court.

The Harper government wants to take out this commission so that women have to go back to the courts to fight for their rights on an individuall basis again.

They would never be able to take away a womans right to fight through the court system and recieve equal pay (this is the law) the way the system is set up right now the government can't change judges rulings.


No, but they sure can put as many obstacles as possible in our way to fight these unfair, misogynistic policy decisions that bigot Harper and his merry band of thieves implement. God I hate Conservatives. Yes, all of them.

Refuge Refuge's picture

yeah, IMO I think that is the point of taking out the HRC for womens pay rights, we can "save money" at the expense of people that don't really matter to us anyway......stupid conservatives......and stupid liberals for agreeing to it.

It's Me D

Refuge wrote:
yeah, IMO I think that is the point of taking out the HRC for womens pay rights, we can "save money" at the expense of people that don't really matter to us anyway...

I think that the Harpers are just using this as an excuse to do something they'd have wanted to do anyway but which without the cover of this "crisis" they wouldn't have been able to get away with; the same can be said for Obama's move, good thing its in the right direction.


Does anyone have the exact language of the legislation that is being proposed?

All I have ever seen is "explanations", no two of which in my experience have said exactly the same thing.

Also, how does it impact non-unionized vs. unionized workers?

Refuge Refuge's picture

 Here it is from the Economic and Fiscal Statement .  We have to trust that this mysterious legislation they are going to bring in is going to be fabulous and solve everything.

Economic and Fiscal Statement wrote:

Another issue we intend to address is the litigious, adversarial, and complaints-based approach to pay equity. Since the mid-1980s, Canadian taxpayers have paid out over $4 billion in pay equity settlements.

These settlements were the result of pay equity complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. These complaints were filed after agreements on public sector wages had already been reached through collective bargaining.

New complaints continue to be filed, sometimes for the same groups that have already received past pay equity settlements. These represent large potential future costs to taxpayers.

This costly and litigious regime of "double pay equity" has been in place for too long. We are introducing legislation to make pay equity an integral part of collective bargaining.

Here is a good look at it from a Union Perspective , I don't know if non unionized can use the HRC still or not, have only heard about Unionized workers not being allowed to use it.

National Union wrote:

Redirecting complaints from the commission to the bargaining table was just one of two big pay equity roadblocks announced by Flaherty. The other was an announced plan to impose legislated contract settlements on public employees for the next three years.

The net effect of this two-pronged strategy - if it stands - will be to derail pay equity cases entirely as long as collective bargaining is suspended.

Unfortunately, this aspect of the financial statement has been obscured by the larger political storm now surrounding the Harper minority government.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has denounced the plan, calling it an affront to the principles of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international human rights standards that Canada is supposed to be upholding.

"The Harper government doesn't want to modernize pay equity, it just wants to eliminate its responsibility for providing a workplace free of discrimination, including wage discrimination," says PSAC president John Gordon.

While the Tory plan may sound innocent on the surface, making the employer and the union jointly responsible for pay equity, it is a formula guaranteed to fail because the government wields much more power than unions do, PSAC notes.

"It is completely unreasonable to expect federal public sector unions to be held accountable when the government has complete control," Gordon argues.

ETA: bold to links, darnit my red didn't work!

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

The punitive measures against unions assisting their members in filing pay equity complaints seem to be lifted from former Australian Prime Minister John Howard's book.

Howard's government made it illegal for a collective agreement to contain provisions that allowed workers to attend health and safety training that was put on by a union.

But in this case it's even more bizarre.     Pay equity is part of the law.   But unions seeking to enforce the law of the land will be penalized for doing so.

Iggy is going to let this whole thing sail through Parliament without uttering a peep.

And people thought Dion was gutless.


martin dufresne

The fight to keep pay equity from the chopping block under the cover of the Budget Implementation Act continues today  . . .  here are compelling explanations as to why the pay equity section of the budget bill must be removed. Please keep the heat on your MP, Liberals, women, etc.

Experts like Paul Durber (Former Director, Pay Equity, Canadian Human Rights Commission) and others ask whether "the proposal to negate the right to equal pay for work of equal value is consistent or inconsistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

Ottawa Citizen article

An open letter was sent on this issue to Harper on February 23 by several recipients of the Persons Award and a host of other prominent feminists.

 Here are its opening paragraphs:

February 23, 2009


Dear Prime Minister Harper,

We write to express our dismay at the introduction of the new Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. We are concerned that this legislation has been introduced as a part of Budget 2009, and that, as a consequence, Parliament will not be permitted to decide whether the legislation has its support as a new law independent of the Budget. This amounts to legislating by stealth in our view, and is unworthy of any Canadian government, as well as unfair to women.

The legislation takes away the right of women federal public servants to equal pay for work of equal value. You have claimed that your government recognizes that pay equity is a right of women and that this new legislation merely introduces efficiency and speed to the process of obtaining pay equity in the public service. We have studied this legislation closely and find these claims false. The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act empties the right to pay equity of its meaning.

The new legislated criteria for evaluating "equitable compensation" will reintroduce sex discrimination into pay practices, rather than eliminate it. Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it is a discriminatory practice for an employer to establish or maintain differences in wages between male and female employees employed in the same establishment who are performing work of equal value. In assessing the value of work performed by employees, the criterion to be applied is the composite of the skill, effort and responsibility required in the performance of the work and the conditions under which the work is performed (section 11). The new legislation adopts these criteria, but adds new ones that completely undermine the commitment to equal pay for work of equal value for women. Section 4(2)(b) of Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act adds that the value of the work performed is also to be assessed according to "the employer's recruitment and retention needs in respect of employees in that job group or job class, taking into account the qualifications required to perform the work and the market forces operating in respect of employees with those qualifications." This permits any evaluation to take into account that male-dominated jobs are valued more highly in the market, requiring the employer to pay more to attract new employees or retain current ones, even if the value of the work when it is assessed based on skill, effort and responsibility is no greater than that of female-dominated jobs.

The right to equal pay for work of equal value was introduced in federal human rights legislation in 1977 precisely in order to expunge the sex discrimination that is inherent in market pay practices from the assessment of the value of work. Historically, the market has devalued work that is done by women. Seeking now to evaluate the federal public service's compensation practices for female dominated job groups by comparing them with pay assigned to these jobs in the market will entrench sex discrimination, not correct it.

In addition, the new legislation defines a female dominated group as one in which 70% of the workers are women; only these groups can seek "equitable compensation." This is too rigid a definition as it simply puts outside the boundaries of the legislation those job groups in which women are 51 - 69% of the workers, no matter what the context is. The legislation restricts comparisons of male and female job groups so that comparisons may only be made within defined portions of the federal public service, or within federal agencies, not across the public service as a whole. In addition, the legislation repeatedly refers to providing "equitable compensation" within "a reasonable time." This seems to imply that women public servants may not receive compensation for the full period when they received less than equal pay for work of equal value and may not receive what they are owed immediately.

We conclude that the substance of the right to equal pay for work of equal value is gone, restrictions have been placed on who falls within the scope of the legislation and on how comparisons can be made, and time periods for which compensation is owed are malleable.


Refuge Refuge's picture

Refuge wrote:
I don't know if non unionized can use the HRC still or not, have only heard about Unionized workers not being allowed to use it.

Upon reflection on this I really don't know how relevant it will be for non unionized workers. Even if they were allowed to use it after Unionized workers stopped using it without the teeth from Unions I wonder how quickly the governmnt would move to get rid of the panel for all workers.

It occurred to me when in another thread it was said that Unions have changed so much for people who are not even a part of the Union. This, I think, has the possibility of being a prime case.


Michelle wrote:
Is there any way to challenge this in court, on constitutional grounds?

Yes: the so-called "Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act", contained in the Budget Implementation Act (Bill C-10), will certainly be subjected to a constitutional challenge (as will probably the "Expenditure Restraint Act", also included in Bill C-10, which legislates wage increases).

The Act is truly atrocious. (This analysis explains reasonably well why that is.) The fact that the Harper government was so heavy-handed (in some respects) in drafting this anti-women legislation—by including fines up to $50,000 for unions who "encourage or assist [an] employee in filing or proceeding with a complaint under [the] Act", to cite one of the most egregious examples—will ironically be helpful to those who will challenge the law.


Dr. Dawg provides [url=][=r... details[/color][/url] on the proposed changes to pay equity and why they suck.


epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Union seeks ‘charging order’ against Canada Post property over pay equity award

Fed up that Canada Post hasn’t paid out a multi-million-dollar pay equity award, the union representing its clerical workers is seeking a charging order, which is similar to a lien, against a postal building in Ottawa.

According to documents filed with the Federal Court, the Public Service Alliance of Canada is asking that a judge enforce a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal pay equity decision, upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2011.

The union is asking for the order against a Canada Post facility on Lancaster Rd. in southeast Ottawa, valued at $3.8 million in 2010. The union had meant to put the charging order against Canada Post’s Ottawa headquarters on Riverside Dr., but the legal description filed in court documents was for the other property...


I can't find this reported anywhere in English - and it doesn't really belong in this thread, which is about federal pay equity - but the Québec Superior Court has handed down an important decision under Québec's pay equity legislation.

Essentially (and I'm sure I'll get this wrong), the law here requires that jobs of "feminine predominance" have to be reviewed every 5 years to ensure they are paid in accordance with equity principles. Under a "reform" in 2009, when an upward adjustment has to be made, it was to be done as of the date of the pay equity review - not retroactively to the event or change which may have triggered the inequity. The court has now ruled that this provision constitution unlawful discrimination based on gender.

[url=]Here's one brief article[/url] in French, quoting Françoise David praising the decision and the unions which fought to challenge the law.



Unionist wrote:
...  the law here requires that jobs of "feminine predominance" have to be reviewed every 5 years to ensure they are paid in accordance with equity principles.

Sorry but my French isn't good enough to understand the subtlties of this.  What are "equity principles"?  And what do they have to do with "feminine predominance"?


Here ya go. You could probably start reading at Section 50.

ETA: Here - try this first - the English is a bit rough around the edges, but it's prettier: