113 recommendations for pay equity improvements

Task force calls for a proactive approach to ensure equal pay for equal work

Ottawa has a new blueprint for pay equity in the federal sector.

The current complaints-based system, in place since 1977, “lacks clarity and has resulted in uncertainty, tension and frustration,” said Beth Bilson, chair of the Pay Equity Task force which presented its report Pay Equity: A New Approach to a Fundamental Right, on Wednesday.

Among its 113 recommendations, the task force called for the complaints-based system to be replaced with a new proactive model.

Under the proposed proactive legislation, all employers will have to create a pay equity committee; develop and implement a pay equity plan; and maintain pay equity results in close consultation with employee representatives.

“Proactive, comprehensive pay equity legislation will create a level playing field,” said Scott MacCrimmon, one of the task force members. “The current legislation has resulted in protracted and costly litigation for employers who are subject to a complaint.”

The task force also proposed that the scope of the new legislation should be extended to protect members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities and Aboriginal people.
The report notes that the wage gap for women remains entrenched and that members of visible minority groups, persons with disabilities and Aboriginal people face similar labour market discrimination.

“Despite the great strides women have made with respect to their qualifications and professional experience, one still finds that many female dominated jobs in the same organization are less well-compensated than male dominated jobs of the same value. Therefore, it is necessary to have a proactive law which is flexible and adaptable to the modern workplace in order to quickly and effectively eliminate these inequities,” said task force member Marie-Thérèse Chicha.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees welcomed the recommendations. In a press release, CUPE said the complaints-based system was a failure, citing as evidence its fight for pay equity for flight attendants, most of whom are women.

Complaints laid against Air Canada in 1991 and Canadian Airlines in 1992 dragged through the courts for years. In March, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that CUPE flight attendants could be compared with pilots and technicians, putting an end to procedural delays. That ruling paves the way for pay equity to proceed but it could take several more years for flight attendants to see results, said the union.

Women need legislation that tells employers and unions to take positive action to eliminate wage discrimination, it said. “The task force members should be congratulated,” said Maureen Morrison, director of CUPE’s equality branch. "They listened and put forward comprehensive recommendations that women workers need to close the wage gap. They've made history in recognizing other disadvantaged groups — workers of colour, Aboriginal people and persons with disabilities — who need pay equity, too."

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