I'd like to thank everybody for the opportunity to speak today. I'm here from the United Steelworkers union. We represent about 220,000 active members in Canada. USW members are men and women of every social, cultural, and ethnic background, and virtually every industry and job.
Over the years the steelworkers have developed courses for women to train other women in the union. We continue to work in politics and the community to advance the interests of all working women.
We've submitted 10 recommendations covering a wide range of issues. They cover some of the same issues that were just spoken about, but they cover federal pay equity legislation, universal child care, secure pensions, and address gender violence. These areas all have an impact on the economic security of women.
An unacceptable pay gap remains between men and women in every jurisdiction in Canada. At the federal level we believe it's absolutely essential to pass proactive pay equity legislation. We also know that legislation on its own doesn't necessarily eliminate the gap all of the way. We know that unions and collective bargaining have been important to reducing the wage gap. In terms of hourly wages, unionization diminishes the gap to close to 5%, from upwards of 15% to 20%, and then on an annual earnings basis, where the gap is much larger, unionization reduces it from over 30% to closer to 15%, which we recognize is still too high.
Beyond wages, collective bargaining and unionization provide women with a protected collective voice to negotiate improved pensions and benefits, as well as flexibility to prevent the negative economic consequences that arise out of the unpaid labour that women are often expected to do and do perform in the domestic sphere. There are OECD studies that say that women in Canada report upwards of four hours of unpaid work on a daily basis, and that's close to two hours more than men report.
We believe this is a contributing factor to women's economic inequality. It forces women to take on more part-time and insecure work that's often lower paid and with fewer workplace protections. For that reason, USW calls for an immediate increase to the federal minimum wage, to $15 an hour, and we further call for the protection and expansion of union rights.
Close to 40% of women outside Quebec cannot access the current EI maternity and parental leave system, either because of a lack of eligible hours or because they simply cannot afford to take the leave based on their replacement rates.
USW recommends a federal leave system that's more equivalent to the Quebec program, so an eligibility based on $2,000 of income during the eligibility period, a reduction of hours required to become eligible to 300, a longer eligibility period of up to five years. We also recommend raising income replacement for maternity and second parent leave to 70%. We're trying to get an equalization of care between parents, and we recommend a “use it or lose it” second parent leave, which would typically be the father, though not necessarily.
Then, there are wage replacements and improved flexibility for compassionate care leave, as women take on the majority of all types of family care.
Canada must go much further than it has to create a universal child care system as well, one that's accessible and affordable to all families. It must also be inclusive, regardless of ability; economic, cultural, or linguistic circumstances; location; or workforce status. It must also include a living wage for child care workers.
Canada must also ensure equality of access to decent pensions that do not simply perpetuate the wage gap until death. USW applauds the recent CPP expansion and recommends that all provisions of CPP, including child-rearing and disability dropout provisions are included to ensure that women receive the full economic benefit of the expanded CPP.
Old age security and the guaranteed income supplement eligibility must remain at 65, and there must be further work with the provinces to reduce social assistance and other clawbacks that arise from OAS and GIS payments.
The steelworkers also ask for increased federal-provincial collaboration on apprenticeship programs and placements aimed at equity-seeking groups. We also call on the federal government to assess infrastructure investments through a gender and equity lens.
We call on the government to invest in social infrastructure, such as affordable housing and public transportation, and we call for procurement provisions and policies that meet gender and equity standards with clear enforcement mechanisms and that do not simply continue occupational segregation.
Women cannot achieve true economic equality and security if we do not also address the particular inequalities faced by indigenous women, black and other women of colour, women with disabilities, and LGBTQ women. Women facing multiple inequalities experience even larger wage gaps and are more likely to be in precarious work.
Last but not least, Canada must protect and expand our public health care system by implementing a national pharmacare plan that is accessible, publicly funded, and publicly delivered.
Finally, access to and protection of reproductive health services is essential to women's economic freedom and security.
That concludes my remarks. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have. Thank you.