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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2002

Toronto Settles Pension Dispute

Four retired professors have scored a precedent-setting victory by obtaining a settlement of their equity claim against the University of Toronto. While terms of the settlement remain confidential, about 60 retired female professors, who were excluded from the university's 1989 faculty salary review process, will receive compensation.

In a lawsuit brought last year, Ursula Franklin, Phyllis Grosskurth, Blanche van Ginkel and Cicely Watson claimed the university had been unjustly enriched from decades of paying women less than men.

Franklin, a distinguished science scholar and recipient of the Pearson Peace Medal, said the settlement is welcome.

The mediated settlement, she said, will "benefit more people than would have been possible through the court case. It also ensures the retired women will immediately benefit, which is especially important as many of them are in their 80s and 90s."

She said one important aspect of the settlement is that it simplifies procedures for the claimants.

"People will not have to go searching through 50 years of paperwork, or be excluded because they have moved into a small apartment and thrown out all their old records," Franklin said.

Compensation was not the only redress the retirees sought in their action. In settling, the four women asked for and received acknowledgement that systematic discrimination took place.

In a release issued April 19, the university's vice-provost, Vivek Goel, said the university "had failed to achieve fairness in ensuring that all faculty members of similar accomplishment and seniority within the same discipline received similar compensation."

Franklin said the most important gain is in the principle.

"It is not the optimum, but we felt it was an honorable settlement," Franklin said.

She also said the whole process took more than 16 months and she's immensely relieved that it's over. "It is not a pastime I recommend."

She said she hopes the settlement will help other women to obtain fair compensation without going through such an arduous process.

Toronto lawyer Mary Eberts, who acted for the women, said their victory creates an important precedent. "Now it's really up to other women to make it a good precedent by bringing their cases forward."

According to sociologist Helen Breslauer, who testified as an expert witness in the case, statistics show that female academics across Canada have consistently been underpaid.

CAUT is asking local faculty associations and individual affiliated members to support the historic efforts of these four retired faculty members by sending a donation to their legal fund. Donations should be sent to legal counsel Mary Eberts of the law firm Eberts, Symes Street & Corbett, 133 Lowther Avenue, Toronto, ON M5R 1E4. Cheques should be made payable to "Law Office of Mary Eberts, in trust."