A new federal law restricts the substance and application of pay equity in the public sector – making it more difficult for women to receive equal pay for work of equal value. The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act is set to be implemented in the fall of 2013 and will compromise pay equity in the following ways:
- It makes it more difficult to claim pay equity. While a “female dominant” job group used to be defined as one with 55 per cent women workers, this new law increases the threshold to 70 per cent.
- It means pay equity could be bargained away. Instead of protecting equal pay as a human right, the new law refers to “market forces” and designates pay equity as an “equitable compensation issue” that must be negotiated at the bargaining table.
- It forces women to file complaints alone, without the support of their union. If pay equity is not achieved through the bargaining process, individual workers are permitted to file a complaint with the Public Service Labour Relations Board, but without their union’s support. In fact, this law imposes a $50,000 fine on any union that would encourage or assist their own members in filing a pay equity complaint!
- It prohibits access to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The law removes the right of public sector workers to claim protection from pay equity violations under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It specifically targets public sector workers, since other federally-regulated workers are not covered by these provisions.
PSAC believes that the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act is a violation of the constitutional equality rights of working women, guaranteed in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It restricts women’s rights by restricting their freedom of association and expression. It prevents them from working with their union to resolve pay equity complaints. In doing so, it restricts the ability of unions and their members to take collective action.
We are fighting back
PSAC has initiated legal procedures to challenge this discriminatory and unfair legislation in court. We have also filed a complaint with the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women against the federal government. In doing so, we received the support of 40 trade unions, women’s groups and human rights organizations.
We have appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women, as well as the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights. We asked MPs and Senators to condemn the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act and to recommend its repeal. We have asked that it be replaced with a truly proactive federal pay equity law, as proposed by the Pay Equity Task Force in its 2004 report, Pay Equity: A Fundamental Human Right.