“During this International Women’s Week, we are celebrating the gains made by our predecessors: these women who fought for the right to pay parity, among other things,” says Vallie Stearns, Chair of the NB Coalition for Pay Equity. “The very idea of ‘equal pay for equal work’ seemed revolutionary only a few decades ago. How many New Brunswick women did the same work as men for lower wages before 1971?* Now, it is a well-established principle, accepted by all.”
The Chair of the Coalition wants pay equity to reach the same acceptance level, with legislation ensuring that wages offered for predominantly female jobs are the same as the wages offered for predominantly male jobs that have the same value, and are performed for the same employer.
According to Stearns, New Brunswick made progress in terms of pay equity: “The concept is more and more understood, less and less contested. It is recognized as a human right and supported in various circles.”
However, she insists that we still need to make it a reality. Although there is now pay equity legislation for the public sector, she deplores the delays in pay equity.
“These delays result in unacceptable delays to adjust compensation when there is inequity. Will there be retroactivity?” asks Stearns.
Pay equity in the private sector remains a critical concern for the Coalition since around 67 per cent of women active in the labour market are actually working in this sector.
“We need legislation for the entire private sector. A valid methodology is also essential for workplaces where there are no predominantly male jobs. These workplaces often offer government-mandated services but wages are already much too low for the responsibilities, skills, and efforts required as well as sometimes difficult working conditions,” says Stearn.
The Coalition recently 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.
“It’s a human right issue for home support, child care and transition house workers,” says Stearns. In the mean time the wage adjustments promised in the last provincial budget are not being distributed. “The government must do the right thing and do it soon. Once again, it has to ensure retroactivity. Moreover, other groups should be considered for pay equity evaluations – workers in special care homes and ADAPT centres, for instance.”
* In 1971, the provincial government passed the Human Rights Act, of which article 3(1) stipulated that: “no employer shall discriminate against any person in respect to employment or any term or condition of employment because of sex.”
Johanne Perron is the executive director of the NB Coalition for Pay Equity.