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CAUT Bulletin Archives

January 2003

Enshrine Pay Equity as a Human Right

At the end of November, CAUT filed a submission with the federal Pay Equity Task Force, established by the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Labour, "to make recommendations as necessary and appropriate to clarify the way in which pay equity should be implemented in a modern society."

The three-member task force is headed by Beth Bilson, professor of law at the University of Saskatchewan, who is joined by Marie-Thérèse Chicha, professor of industrial relations at the University of Montreal and Scott MacCrimmon, a private management consultant.

CAUT's submission highlights 13 primary areas of concern. Among the major points is the need for continued recognition of both pay equity and equal pay for equal work as a human right, protected and enforced through a legislative model that is quasi-constitutional in nature.

"The attempt by employers and the federal government to convert pay equity to a simple 'labour issue' will undermine its character as a fundamental human right," said Rosemary Morgan, CAUT's equity officer and legal counsel, and author of the submission.

CAUT also stresses that pay equity and all legislative enactments created to eliminate discrimination in employment must be facilitated by an adequately funded, independent human rights agency or commission with the mandate to supervise and enforce all related anti-discrimination legislation.

According to Morgan, formerly legal counsel and acting director of pay equity at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the primary problem with the existing regime is the lack of independence of the commission from government in obtaining critical funding, and the consequential inadequate funding for systemic discrimination issues, including pay equity.

The submission also recommends the elimination of gender discrimination in pay by proactive legislation.

The existing pay equity regime is complaint-based. While this is not entirely ineffective, it places too much onus on the complainant and the commission to obtain equality. CAUT calls for a proactive pay equity model, similar to those in Ontario and Quebec, but with several features not seen in either of these provincial models, that would better assist the parties in achieving equality.

"To be truly systemic in redressing wage discrimination," Morgan said, "proactive legislation, or proactive elements of more comprehensive human rights legislation, must cover both equal pay for work of equal value as well as equal pay for equal, same, or similar work."

Equal pay for work of equal value (pay equity) has been restricted to comparisons of work, which are seen to be of equal value. Consequently, work which is similar or same, is not subject to the same proactive regime in those provinces where proactive pay equity legislation exists.

The Pay Equity Task Force began its comprehensive review of the federal pay equity legislation late in 2001 and is expected to report in late 2003.