The New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity is celebrating the social, economic and political gains of women on its 20th celebration of International Women’s Day. In the two decades since its founding, the Coalition and its partners have achieved many victories and progress in the fight for pay equity—the human right to equal pay for work of equal value.
“Twenty years ago, the catalyst for the creation of the Coalition was the 2000 World March of Women, in which 139 New Brunswick women marched against gender-based violence and for legislation to eliminate pay inequity. Since then, we have made great strides towards that goal,” said Krysta Cowling (she/her), Chair of the Coalition.
The Coalition’s first major victory was the passage of the Pay Equity Act, 2009, which redressed the systemic wage discrimination in many female-dominated jobs in the public sector and in Crown corporations. Twelve years after its implementation, it has ensured that thousands of New Brunswickers, mostly women, are paid equitably.
The most recent progress has been made over the past year. First, in August, when the long-awaited federal Pay Equity Act came into force—a victory for the 1.3 million people in Canada who are covered by the law, including thousands in this province. The Act ensures that people in female-dominated jobs in federally-regulated workplaces, including banking, telecommunications and interprovincial transportation, are paid the same as those in male-dominated jobs of equal value.
Last December, the Coalition witnessed a historic agreement between the province and the federal government on child care. This agreement includes a 25% wage increase for early childhood educators, who are mostly women, and a reduction in fees for parents to $10 per day over five years.
“The next step is to ensure the successful implementation of these three victories. They are the result of the advocacy work of countless New Brunswick women and men over many years. It demonstrates that hard work is paying off, but there are still many struggles ahead,” said Cowling.
The province’s community care sector, which employs more than 10,000 women, boasts some of the lowest wages in Canada in this field. Job evaluations conducted over the past year have shown that wages, currently between $14 and $18 per hour, should reach between $23 and $27 to achieve pay equity. The Coalition continues to push government to invest in wage increases for these female-dominated workers and to develop a five-year plan to attain pay equity.
The final major hurdle to overcome is ensuring pay equity for the 65% of women in the workforce employed in the private sector. The province needs but lacks the political will to address this issue.
“Until pay equity legislation is adopted, New Brunswick women will continue to pay the cost of pay inequity. On this International Women’s Day, we hope that all parties will take stock of the work that remains to be done. Because it’s easy to celebrate when you think equality and fairness have been achieved—but they haven’t yet. Ending pay inequity is everyone’s business and cannot be shouldered by women alone,” added Cowling.
Twenty years ago, the Coalition’s founders marched for legislation to end pay inequity. Since then, more than 1,000 members, 100 member organizations and successive generations have joined the fight for the same right. Hopefully, it won’t take another 20 years to succeed; women can’t afford to wait any longer.
The New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity is a group of individuals and organizations that pursues and ensures the realization of the right to pay equity and to just conditions of work for women. To that end, the Coalition engages in communication, education, research, advocacy for the adoption and the implementation of adequate legislation, as well as public policy dialogue and development.