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International Women's Day: an update on pay equity

2014-03-04

 As International Women’s Day is coming, the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity looks back at the accomplishments made so far towards achieving equal pay for work of equal value in New Brunswick. It also looks at the steps needed in the next few years.

Pay equity is reached when jobs predominantly held by women – such as clerical, administrative, financial and human services jobs - get paid fairly compared with jobs predominantly held by men working for the same employer.

 

Pay Equity Act, 2009 was a major step forward which can be improved

Getting pay equity legislation for the whole public sector was very important for New Brunswick women, says Vallie Stearns, Chair of the Coalition. It provides a building stone for the province’s future actions on pay equity.

However, Stearns deplores the delays in the application of the Act and asks the government to provide a detailed report on it in the next few months.

“We need information that will help us understand what is going on in the public sector. What is the process? Which job categories have completed their pay equity programmes? Why are there delays?” says Vallie Stearns.

The Coalition is already planning to review and analyze the Pay Equity Act, 2009. “We need to see whether it allows the government to achieve its objectives regarding pay equity. We will be asking the government to consult the stakeholders in order to make the Act more efficient,” says Vallie Stearns.

 

Pay equity legislation for the private sector remains a major goal

Pay equity in the private sector remains a critical concern for the Coalition since around 67% of women active in the labour market are actually working in this sector.

“We need legislation for all the private sector.  In spite of the government’s efforts, the private sector failed to implement voluntary measures and education is clearly not sufficient to move forward,” explains Vallie Stearns, citing the experience of the government’s 2005-2010 wage gap plan. “Legislation is the way to go.”

 

Government-mandated services:  nursing homes, home support agencies, transition houses, child care agencies and community residences

According to Vallie Stearns, women working in the private sector providing government-mandated human services are critically in need of higher wages.  Often working for $10 to $13 per hour, women are providing services to children, seniors and those with severe mental and physical challenges that are both necessary to the community and demand high knowledge, skill and responsibility. While the Coalition applauds the initiative of the provincial government to conduct an investigation into pay equity for these jobs, it deplores the results.  “The government found that an equitable wage for women working in these sectors was only $13-14 per hour when compared with comparable male-dominated jobs.  We cannot believe these results are right.”

Of all these groups, only the community residences are still waiting for the programmes results in spite of many calls to speed up the process. The government is now promising to release the results before the end of March 2014. The workers are really looking forward to find out those results, according to Stearns.

In addition, the government has decided to spread the pay equity adjustments for most of these sectors over five years. The Coalition found out last year that pay equity adjustments for home support workers, found to be $2.15 per hour to move average wages from $11.00 to $13.15 per hour, were not distributed equally over the five years and represented less than one fifth of their pay equity adjustments in the first year. The Coalition has requested the government to make ensure pay equity adjustments in full in the next budget.  “Home support workers wages need to keep pace with the cost of living.  Why should they be asked to wait any longer,” questions Stearns.

 

Needed: an improved methodology and new pay equity programmes for government mandated services

The Coalition urges the government to improve the methodology used in government-mandated human services in the private sector where there are no male-dominated comparator jobs.  “Women need their jobs to be compared fairly using recognized methodological norms in order to achieve pay equity,” explains Stearns. 

In 2012-2013, the Coalition analyzed the job evaluation and comparison methodology used by the government for these types of workplaces and came to the conclusion that it needs to be improved. The Coalition wants to collaborate with the government on this issue as soon as possible. Then it would wants to ensure that all services in this sector are covered by pay equity, including special care homes, literacy services and ADAPT centres, preferably by proactive and enforceable legislation.

“Pay equity a human right issue. It should be a priority. It certainly is for all the workers employed in predominantly female jobs,” says Vallie Stearns.

 

Coalition’s fundraising campaign

The Coalition has been funding its advocacy work exclusively through fundraising in the past 4 years. This year’s campaign obtained $75,000. According to the Coalition’s Chair, this is great for an advocacy organization but not quite enough to work at full capacity, so the Coalition is planning other fundraising activities to reach the goal of $90,000.

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