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The Coalition for Pay Equity highlights National Nurses Week

Did you know? In 1980, the case of registered nurses raised New Brunswickers’ awareness about pay equity.
 
Here is an excerpt of a text written by Rosella Melanson :
 
In 1980, the Advisory Council launched its study "Preliminary analysis of the principle of wage parity for performing equivalent functions as applied to certain jobs in the New Brunswick public service" which states at the outset that the Council believes that "the time has arrived to undertake a public awareness program with respect to the validity of the principle of wage parity for performing equivalent functions” It concluded that the undervaluation of most "female" jobs and the over-valuation of "male" jobs fell under gender discrimination.
 
The study analyzed 21 jobs traditionally dominated by one of the two sexes, to determine the level of skill, effort and responsibility required of the person in position, apply a point system, and finally divide the annual salary by points awarded. The jobs that were analyzed were social workers, employees of NB Liquor, mechanics and electricians, orderlies and registered nurses.
 
An interesting example was the registered nurse position, which then demanded a three-year course, and the "orderly", predominantly male, which required no training. The assessment of the job descriptions of both positions showed that the registered nurse position deserved twice the number of "problem points" than the orderly position and therefore should be paid at double the rate. Registered nurses then earned the equivalent or slightly more than the orderly without training.
 
The Council shared these results with the provincial government and the concerned groups. We must remember that at that time, even the most concerned groups, such as registered nurses and unions, had not heard of the concept of "equal pay for work of comparable value".
 
The situation of registered nurses in particular was so unfair that the women involved did not wait for the concept to make its way. New Brunswick registered nurses had recently formed a union and in 1980, they led vigorous campaigns around slogans like “The Nurse is Worth It”. For several months, many of them donned on “the red badge of frustration”
 
In October 1980, the President of the Advisory Council, Madeleine LeBlanc, appealed to women and women's groups and labour groups to support nurses and publicly communicate this support to the Premier.
 
"The current battle by registered nurses shows the battle that will need to be conducted by several other groups of workers in predominantly female jobs. They need the support of the entire population to break down the barriers of attitudes that nurses are paid at a shameful rate compared to other workers doing work of comparable value ... Despite the current budgetary constraints, the wages requested by certain disadvantaged groups should be considered more favorably if we do not want to endorse injustice. "(L’ Évangeline, October 7, 1980).
 
In 1981, thanks to the actions of registered nurses and the public support, registered nurses received a 41 per cent wage increase over nearly two years. It was not pay equity, but it was an unprecedented victory and a demonstration of the collective strength of women.  (free translation)
 
This excerpt is taken from the book ‘’Vers l’équité salariale‘’. It examines pay equity as it evolves in New Brunswick through different essays. The book is available in independent francophone libraries across the province. Get a copy now, reflections and discoveries guaranteed!
 
The history of unionization of the nurses and their campaign ‘’The Nurse is Worth It‘’ was described by the project Labour History in New Brunswick. For more information, see http://www.lhtnb.ca/TH/en_projrech.cfm

 

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