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Harper tries to kill pay equity

February 24th, 2009     by Stark Koenig     Comments

How much do I wish that the push for a coalition government had gone through last December? Harper’s back in action and his latest proposal has been to quietly usher through budget legislation that would effectively do away with pay equity for women in the public sector, making hard-won human rights into a negotiable issue for the bargaining table.

Basically, for those of us who have a hard time wading through the legalese, the proposed bill introduces some radical changes to current legislation that have profound effects on women in the workforce. Here are a few examples of the kinds of changes proposed:

- The criteria for work value assessment, once based on skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions, now include “qualifications and market forces,” which in addition to being very subjective are more easily argued off the table than hard skills. - Pay equity will be something that is negotiated at the bargaining table rather than something that should be guaranteed. - Women who wish to make pay equity complaints must do so without support; in fact, unions who decide a claim is worth pursuing and try to offer representation or counsel will be fined $50,000. - Complaints will no longer be processed through the Human Rights Commission, but through the third party Public Service Labour Relations Board, supposedly to save time. This Board is a bargaining table facilitator, dedicated to resolving labour disputes, not to preserving human rights.

Women’s equality in the workplace should not be a bargaining chip to be held out or held back by employers. In fact, this sly little bit of the legislation holds no discernible advantage for the country’s flagging economy, so what is the benefit? PSAC is now running a petition and letter campaign to implore MPs to remove the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act from Bill C-10.

For more information, the following articles are helpful: PSAC fact sheets and information on Bill C-10 and the proposed Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. Judy Wasylycia-Leis takes on the Liberals, whose apathy during the decision-making process has been very destructive. Treasury Board statement attempting to debunk fears surrounding proposed changes. Toronto Star article on the underhandedness of Harper’s budget bill gives a good rundown of the issues.

Tags: news flash

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