Women’s History Month: Workers still fighting for gender equity

October is women’s history month. This month, PSAC commemorates the dedicated activism of women in the labour movement – and commits to pushing forward.

Pay equity is still not a reality

In 1980, PSAC clerical workers led the largest strike in Canadian history, demanding paid maternity leave and fair wages. It would be another four years until PSAC was able to file a pay equity complaint on behalf of the workers. In 1988, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal upheld PSAC’s complaint, and in 1999 the Federal Court of Canada supported the Tribunal’s decision. After 15 years, thousands of current and former clerical workers received pay equity settlements.

But the fight for pay equity continues. Under Stephen Harper, pay equity in the federal public sector was gutted and, despite promises, the current federal government has yet to introduce proactive federal pay equity legislation. PSAC will continue to push for proactive legislation to end the gender wage gap.

Slow progress on ending workplace harassment and violence

In 1987, PSAC member Bonnie Robichaud filed a human rights complaint related to sexual harassment. Her courageous complaint led to a ground-breaking Supreme Court of Canada decision, which found that “employers are responsible for maintaining a harassment-free work environment”. This year, the federal government finally answered calls from the labour movement and introduced legislation to further address violence and harassment in the workplace.

Despite progress on this issue, women who come forward with allegations of harassment or violence continue to face backlash and are often disbelieved. The #metoo movement has had an impact, but there is still a long way to go. PSAC will keep working to end sexual harassment, domestic violence and all forms of violence on the job.

We need universal child care

Access to quality child care is essential to the well-being of children, and to women’s economic justice. For forty years, PSAC has worked with the broader child care movement to fight for a universal, high quality child care system for Canada.

In 1999, PSAC took our demands for affordable child care to the bargaining table and won a child care fund for members at Canada Post. In 2005, we renewed calls for action on a national child care program. That same year, the Martin government committed to investing $1 billion every year to support a national program but was defeated in the 2006 election.

Today, PSAC is still campaigning for affordable, high-quality, universal child care across the country.    

All PSAC members can be proud of what the women in our union have accomplished. PSAC women will continue to fight for pay equity, an end to violence and harassment, and universal child care.

October 1, 2018