Thanks very much.
I also have prepared shorter remarks because I think we want to engage in the discussion with people here in the room.
I'm going to forewarn you that this will be a verbal presentation this morning, but we will send over our presentation as soon as it comes out of translation at our office. Just to make sure that you're not short on things to read, we did bring you copies of our research paper number 47, “Pay Inequity”, our analysis of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. That should give you a little bit of time to read before you get the other remarks.
As always, we want to thank you on behalf of the 3.2 million members of the Canadian Labour Congress for having us here to present our views on Bill C-471. As you know, the CLC brings together national and international unions, federations of labour, and labour councils. We work in every community, in all kinds of occupations, and in all parts of Canada.
This bill provides for the implementation of the recommendations of the task force on pay equity. As you know, these recommendations were the result of years of careful and comprehensive study and consultation and were widely supported by labour and women's organizations. The study could be the most significant and in-depth study of pay equity anywhere that we've been able to find.
The task force recommended a series of measures that would have transformed the federal pay equity regime and made it more effective and fair for women working in the federal sector. I'm going to highlight some key recommendations that the Canadian Labour Congress singled out for support when the report was issued in 2004. I'm also going to contrast these recommendations with the Conservative government's response to the task force, which is the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, or what I'm going to just call ECA.
I just want to say as well that this is a little bit like déjà vu: how many times do we end up appearing in front of this committee on pay equity in some form? It's time to get the job done.
The task force recommended that “Parliament enact new stand-alone, proactive pay equity legislation in order that Canada can more effectively meet its internal obligations and domestic commitments, and that such legislation be characterized as human rights legislation”.
This recognition that pay equity is a fundamental human right acknowledges that we require systemic solutions to eliminate systemic discrimination. In contrast, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act completely ignores this fundamental recommendation and proposes the exact opposite, relegating pay equity to the bargaining table.
The task force recognized that Canadian workers who belonged to other designated equity-seeking groups also experienced wage discrimination. A proactive pay equity law would be expanded to cover racialized workers, aboriginal workers, and workers with disabilities. This expansion of pay equity was ignored by ECA.
The task force placed the onus on employers to correct discriminatory wage disparities. It also obligated employers to work with unions and employee groups by creating pay equity committees to prepare and monitor pay equity plans in all workplaces, unionized or not. These committees should include a significant proportion of women workers from predominantly female job classes, and the plans would cover all workers, regardless of full-time, part-time, contract, or casual status.
Although the current government labelled its Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act “proactive”, we are not convinced that this is so. That act does not place the responsibility for eliminating discriminatory wages on employers alone; it introduces market forces as a factor for consideration when valuing women's work in the public sector. It only targets certain employers, redefines a “female predominant” group, and restricts the comparator groups, thus making it more difficult to establish where wage discrimination exists. This is not proactive pay equity legislation in any form.
The pay equity task force proposed the establishment of a separate pay equity commission to assist employees, employers, and unions to provide education on pay equity issues and to resolve any disagreements. Rather than establishing a separate body for specific pay equity expertise, the government's ECA refers disputes to the Public Service Labour Relations Board, prohibits unions from filing complaints, and compels women to file complaints alone, without the support of their union.
It's difficult to imagine a system further from the vision articulated by the pay equity task force, despite the government's claims that they acted in the spirit of its recommendations.
It's been six and a half years since the task force on pay equity tabled its report and recommendations and six and a half years since the Canadian Labour Congress and others have been advocating for its implementation. Given the amount of work that went into the development of the task force, it's shocking and quite frankly shameful that this report has been relegated to the archives without any meaningful implementation.
But women have been waiting far longer than six and half years. We've been waiting for decades and decades and decades. We've waited while we've haggled with resistant employers at the bargaining table. We've waited while settlements have been held up by employers who drag their feet in lengthy court proceedings, and, as some of us heard just last weekend at a conference in the Bell Canada case, 18% of the women who were affected died while that was being fought out. We've waited at great expense in many ways.
We've waited, and we've advocated for proactive pay equity legislation, as leaving the matter to collective bargaining or to a complaint-based system simply does not help us close the wage gap for women in this country. While we wait, the debt owed to women who were caught in the wage gap continues to mount: women with children to raise, women who deserve a dignified retirement, and women in every sector and community in our country.
Justice delayed is justice denied. We urge you to support this private member's bill and to bring proactive pay equity to Canada's working women.