Discrimination Costs Over One Month's Pay to NB Women

Wednesday, July 28 2010

“Will the government be brave enough to take tough measures to eliminate discrimination?” – that’s the question Anne-Marie Gammon, Chair of the Coalition for Pay Equity, is asking.

Discrimination costs women in New Brunswick more than a month’s wages – nearly a month and a half’s, in fact – according to a study by economist Ather Akbari (2004), who believes that 80% of the gap in hourly wages between men and women is due to discrimination.

This discrimination is what the Coalition for Pay Equity is denouncing by declaring November 29 “Pay Equity Day”.

“This sort of injustice requires strong action by the provincial government. Legislation to ensure pay equity in the public and private sectors would eliminate a large percentage of discrimination toward women on the job market,” says the Chair of the Coalition for Pay Equity.

However, 17 months after Bill 77 on pay equity was introduced in the Legislative Assembly, 12 months after the public hearings, the Committee  on Law Amendments still hasn’t presented its report on the bill.

“Is the government hesitant to present a report that will undoubtedly show the broad support expressed for this bill at the public hearings in November 2004? Or are they ashamed to announce that they have no intention of passing such a bill, despite popular support?” wonders Anne-Marie Gammon. She invites the population to ask Jody Carr, MLA and President of the Law Amendment Committee, to speed up the process.

Bill 77 is aimed at recognizing the value of work that is traditionally or mainly female. If it was passed, employers would have to evaluate these jobs, as well as those that are traditionally or mainly male, based on four factors: skills, responsibility, effort, working conditions. If the value is the same, wages should be the same. However, if the wages for female jobs were lower despite their being of equal value, the employer would have to increase them.

“When you think about it, there’s no reason why a cashier should make less than the person who puts the groceries on the shelves in the same store. Or that an assistant accountant should earn less than a salesperson in the same auto dealership. If the two jobs have the same value, they should have the same wages,” says Anne-Marie Gammon.

Women’s work has historically been under-valued. Women’s access to certain fields of study and jobs has been restricted. Working women were systematically paid less than men because a woman’s salary was considered to be an extra.

Back in 1899, then NB Premier Robert Emmerson complained that women often received little more than half the wages of men who did the same work. Until 1965, the minimum wage for women was lower than that for men.

During the XXth century, it became illegal to prevent women from entering certain fields of study or jobs, or to pay them less than men for doing the same work.

However, traditionally or mainly female jobs remain under-valued and under-paid.

To change these deeply-rooted mentalities, other provinces have legislated pay equity in the public and private sectors.

At present, women in the province earn on average 84.5% of the hourly wage of men in the province. This represents a wage gap of 15.5%, or $2.55 an hour on average (Stat. Can., 2004). Discrimination accounts for $2.04 out of this $2.55.

According to the Chair of the Coalition for Pay Equity, the consequences of wage discrimination affect not only women, but also their families and all of society. The loss of a month’s wages can be the difference between taking a vacation or not, giving one’s children swimming lessons or not, paying a child’s tuition or not. Sometimes, it’s the difference between being above or below the poverty line.

It is in light of the economic consequences of inaction on women and their families that Anne-Marie Gammon exhorts the government to legislate pay equity in the public and private sectors this year. “NB women have been waiting too long,” she says.

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