Press Release


Pay equity for all: a matter of justice!


Letter to the editor
If you ask around, most New Brunswickers would agree: if two jobs with the same employer involve the same level of requirements, they should be paid the same. It should not matter whether the jobs are occupied mainly by men or by women. That is what pay equity is about. It seems only fair.
The problem is that because men used to be seen as the families’ main breadwinners, “women’s jobs” were generally paid less than “men’s jobs” of the same value. As a result, they often still are. Currently, 70% of NB women and 13.5% of NB men in the labour market have predominantly female jobs.
Pay equity legislation ensures that employers take measures to give equal pay for work of equal value. They have to determine jobs’ value by using a job evaluation system that takes into account responsibilities, competence, efforts, and working conditions. Then, they have to compare the value and wages of jobs mostly held by women and jobs mostly held by men within that workplace. If the value is the same, the pay should be the same.
Luckily, things are moving forward in New Brunswick. Last June, the provincial government adopted the Pay Equity Act, 2009 which applies to the whole public sector. The Act will come into effect in a few weeks, on April 1, 2010. It might not be perfect and the way it will be applied remains to be seen, but it is certainly a good step forward.
Moreover, five groups that are not part of the public sector but offer services mandated by the government are expecting pay equity adjustments in 2010: home support, child care, transition house, group home and nursing home workers. Again, this is good news, but how will pay equity be maintained over time for these groups, without legislation in place? And what about other groups of workers that offer services mandated by the government? What about special care home workers, literacy teachers and human service workers in Adult Development Activities, Programs and Training (ADAPT) centres, amongst others?
The recently adopted provincial Poverty Reduction Plan relies heavily on the not-for-profit sector. Yet this sector typically hires a high percentage of women, many with postsecondary education, but has little means to pay them fairly. How will the poverty reduction plan ensure that women working in this sector get pay equity? Why did the plan not include pay equity legislation in the private sector as a tool to reduce women’s poverty? The fact is that jobs mostly held by women are often undervalued and underpaid. This contributes to woman’s poverty.
Some municipalities (Quispamsis, Memramcook, Tracadie-Sheila) are introducing pay equity programs in their resource management strategy. They are to be congratulated for acting without the push of legislation. Obviously they saw the positive rewards of acting now: employee attraction and retention, a modern remuneration system, and a better work climate, to name a few. Yet, will all other municipalities take action without legislation? At least one already said it would not.
In total, 67% of women in the labour market work in the private sector. Until now, they can only count on their employers’ good will to get pay equity. The government decided to pursue the Five-Year Wage Gap Action Plan adopted by the previous government. This plan relies on voluntary measures to implement pay equity in the private sector. There is little if no indication that this works. When Margaret-Ann Blaney, then minister responsible for the Status of Women, introduced her action plan, she stated that her government would introduce legislation if no results were seen in the private sector. What is her party’s position now? The Liberals often showed support for legislation in the private sector while they were in the opposition. They promised they would bring stakeholders together to discuss issues in order to legislate in the private sector. Are they going to make this promise a reality? The New Democratic Party already promised it would support pay equity legislation for all sectors. The Green Party has yet to define its policy. There seems to be a consensus on the principle but will our leaders make it happen?
Certainly, every New Brunswicker is entitled to pay equity. It is a human right and should apply to all equally. That is why pay equity legislation should be adopted for all economic sectors, not only the public sector. It would meet New Brunswickers’ sense of fairness and justice.
Johanne Perron is the Executive Director of the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity, a group of over 700 individuals and 81 organizations that advocates for pay equity legislation in both the public and private sectors.

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