The New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity is feeling “frustration and discouragement,” in response to New Brunswick’s 2017-2018 budget, according to Coalition Chair, Vallie Stearns Anderson. The budget was released on Feb. 7.
Brian Gallant and the Liberal Party of New Brunswick made three promises to improve pay equity in the province in their 2014 election platform: 1) Full implementation of the 2009 Pay Equity Act; 2) Improvements to the methodology of measuring pay inequity; and 3) The requirement of pay equity plans for organizations with 50 or more employees who do business with the government.
“The Liberal government made a number of promises in the election platform that were quite specific,” Stearns Anderson recalled.
“I expected an update on pay equity. It is a budget item. It requires a certain amount of money. When it’s not mentioned, it shows that there’s not enough commitment to it,” she added.
Stearns Anderson emphasized the provincial government has acknowledged that pay equity is fundamental to women’s equality, and necessary for the quality of services that are mainly delivered by women in child care, home support, group homes and transition homes. While the provincial government has acknowledged that there is a problem, their response has fallen short.
“I’d expect them to put their money where their mouth is,” she said.
The New Brunswick government’s approach to calculating pay equity for workers in child care, home support, group homes and transition homes is fundamentally flawed, according to Stearns Anderson, leading to “scandalously low” wages for workers in these areas.
“According to the government, pay equity is somewhere between $12 – 14 per hour for those jobs. According to independent economist Ruth Rose, those jobs deserve between $19 – 23 per hour.”
What the government considers “equitable” wages were calculated at such a low rate because of the method the government used.
“They did things like devalued the jobs of the male comparators and underestimated the amounts they were being paid. They’d look at 2010-12 numbers for them.”
“Until now, the only visible progress on pay equity in the province has happened in the public sector, where there is legislation.”
Stearns Anderson noted that the limited progress on pay equity in the public sector was achieved for court stenographers and educational support workers, who have received pay equity payouts. She added that there is still a long way to go to achieve pay equity in the public sector. “There still remains several groups in public sector where the pay equity process has not been started, most specifically Crown corporation employees and non-unionized employees.”
In order for meaningful improvements to be achieved in the private sector, Stearns Anderson believes that the government must act. “We are convinced more than ever that legislation is needed to require private employers to recognize and ensure pay equity in the workplace,” she emphasized.
Asaf Rashid is a member of the NB Media Co-op.