PSAC debunks Treasury Board proposal for multiple pay equity plans

PSAC has provided the federal Pay Equity Commissioner with key reasons to deny Treasury Board’s proposal to have three separate pay equity plans in the core public service instead of one plan covering all employees. The Commissioner will consider our submission, as well as submissions from other federal public service unions also challenging the government’s proposal. March 17 is the deadline for Treasury Board to respond to all the submissions. At this time, there is no deadline for the Commissioner to issue her ruling. 

Treasury Board’s proposal should be rejected because: 

  • It directly undermines the aim of the new Pay Equity Act which is to ensure that federal employers provide equal pay for work of equal value and adjust salaries as needed so that their pay practices do not continue to discriminate based on gender. 

  • Grouping employees by bargaining unit into separate plans is arbitrary and not supported by previously established legal principles; 

  • The government’s argument that one plan would be challenging to administer doesn’t hold up without any attempt to develop a single plan; 

  • Administering three pay equity plans will likely add to the administrative challenges the government faces. 

Treasury Board proposes ‘pay equity lite’ 

The government’s proposal amounts to ‘pay equity lite’ and will inevitably hurt workers – with fewer comparisons and more wage discrimination. A single plan is feasible and can produce accurate, reliable and acceptable results. Pay equity experts, who have provided opinions to PSAC and to other federal public service unions on this issue, have concluded that one plan is both preferable and workable. One plan will be able to address systemic wage discrimination in the core public service by including all female-dominated classifications and all male-dominated classifications in order to compare work of equal value and rates of pay. Three plans restrict these comparisons and allow systemic wage discrimination to continue.  

Treasury Board is wasting time 

The Pay Equity Act requires employers to proactively establish a pay equity plan within three years and to adjust salaries as required by the plan. Dividing the core public service into three separate plans limits how jobs can be compared to determine if there are salary differences based on gender and to make pay adjustments to eliminate those differences. Treasury Board’s request – which only affects the core public service – is wasting time instead of getting the job done. 

It’s been done before 

Treasury Board has already been involved in one public service-wide pay equity exercise with the Joint Union-Management Initiative in the late 1980s. At that time, PSAC and the employer agreed to conduct job comparisons across the core public service. The joint work broke down when the government was faced with the amount they owed. However, the results of the study were found to be reliable by a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and led to a landmark decision when Treasury Board was ordered to pay the largest pay equity award in Canadian history. Salaries for a number of female-dominated classifications were adjusted and over 230,000 members and former members received $3 billion in retroactive payments and interest  

Read more about this historic achievement. 


March 13, 2023