Response to the Final Report of the New Brunswick Wage Gap Roundtable - December 2003

Wednesday, July 28 2010

Response to the Final Report of the New Brunswick Wage Gap Roundtable - December 2003

Two members of the Wage Gap Roundtable, the Coalition for Pay Equity and the New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL), refused to sign the recommendation (i) of the Roundtable that proposes to eliminate the wage gap through voluntary measures that public and private employers would adopt during an initial period of five years. These two organizations will submit independent recommendations to Minister Blaney, to the attention of the Lord government, early in 2004.

"The final report of the Roundtable (para. 1.3) recognizes in writing that pay equity would allow the elimination of one of the three causes of the wage gap, that is the gender-based discrimination which is at the root of the under-valuation of women's work," observed Huberte Gautreau, outgoing president of the Coalition for Pay Equity, and Marilyn MacCormack, spokesperson for the NBFL. "In spite of that, the adoption of a proactive law for pay equity in the public and private sectors is not recommended by the Roundtable," they emphasized. Besides the under-valuation of women's work caused by gender-based discrimination, the final report of the Round table identified two other causes of the wage gap (para. 2.31): women's family responsibilities and their concentration in a limited number of traditional women's occupations (job clustering).

The disagreement of the two members of the Roundtable is based on the following four points:

1. Pay equity is a human right guaranteed to all Canadian citizens and a human right is not negotiable.

2. Voluntary measures do not constitute an effective tool to eliminate discrimination and to ensure respect for human rights. It is this observation that has led, for over forty years, most western countries to legislate to prohibit discrimination and to impose corrective measures. Nothing allows us to believe that the question of pay equity is an exception to the rule of the inefficiency of voluntary measures. To the contrary, 85% of Quebec companies declared in October 2003 that they undertook or completed the implementation of pay equity because of pay equity legislation (Quebec Pay Equity Commission, Léger Marketing survey, October 2003). Finally, the case of the minimum wage offers an excellent example of the necessity to legislate to ensure respect of minimal standards of remuneration by employers.

3. Economically, gender-based pay discrimination leads to significant social costs: physical and mental health, education, economic dependence and the inability to leave a violent family situation. A law on pay equity would allow a reduction of these costs by decreasing poverty among women. On this topic, a study by the Center of Excellence for Women's Health concluded that strategic investments decreasing poverty among women would lower expenses related to the operation of the hospital system. (Colman 2002)

4. Human resources are harder to find in the labour market in New Brunswick and a pay equity law would allow employers to retain their personnel and to recruit new employees more easily. A law on pay equity would help to achieve one of the objectives of New Brunswick's Prosperity Plan, that is increasing the productivity of human resources to use them to their full potential.

Media coverage of Pay Equity Day on November 27 resulted in all Canadian provinces turning their eyes to New Brunswick. "Our government will not be able to delay assuming its obligations with respect to human rights indefinitely. National and international expectations concerning the right to equal pay for work of equal or comparable value are becoming more and more widely known," declared Huberte Gautreau.

The province of New Brunswick is obliged to ensure that all its citizens are able to exercise their right to "equal pay for work of equal value," as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (art. 15) and by the international agreements ratified by Canada, including the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 23(2), and Convention 100 on the equality of remuneration of the International Labour Organization (rec. no. 90). This responsibility of the government of New Brunswick towards its citizens was also underlined in January 2003 by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that recalled in its final report on Canada that it was the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments of the country to implement the principle of "equal pay for work of equal value."

Gender-based salary discrimination exists, however, in New Brunswick where the people who occupy one of the ten professions dominated by women earn 59% of the people who occupy one of the ten professions where men are in the majority. (Roundtable Report, para. 2.14 to 2.17)
"That's why we're asking the government to immediately tackle one of the three causes of the wage gap identified by the Roundtable (para. 2.31), that is the under-valuation of women's work caused by gender-based salary discrimination, by adopting a law on pay equity," commented Huberte Gautreau. "Pay equity legislation would be a first step towards the concrete recognition of a fundamental human right."

Adopting voluntary measures to solve the under-valuation of the professions traditionally dominated by women is inadequate, as it doesn't allow all citizens to exercise their right to equal pay for work of equal value.

Furthermore, voluntary measures will lead to a lack of uniformity in the
application of the principle of "equal pay for work of equal value." That is particularly unfair towards employers who want to show good will, since their competitors will not be obliged to implement pay equity programs as well.

"Sooner or later, the government of New Brunswick will have to act on
the question of pay equity and it is not helping companies by delaying
its obligations. Companies will not be well prepared when they have to
implement pay equity programs," added Marilyn MacCormack from the NBFL.

In the opinion of the Coalition for Pay Equity and the NBFL, the experience of Quebec and Ontario, where pay equity laws in the public and private sectors have been enforced for several years, illustrates well the necessity of adding a pay equity law to the tools that the government of New Brunswick will use to eliminate gender-based salary discrimination.

"Financially, pay equity is completely feasible," concluded Huberte Gautreau. A survey of Quebec companies carried out this year for the Pay Equity Commission of Quebec revealed that salary adjustments paid out by companies with 10 or more employees represented on average at the most 1.5% of the total wage bill. (Quebec Pay Equity Commission, Léger Marketing survey, October 2003)

The Coalition for Pay Equity is a group of New Brunswick organizations and individuals that lobbies the provincial government to enact legislation to provide pay equity in both the public and private sectors. Pay equity is equal pay for work of equal or comparable value.

The New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL) is the largest union group of New Brunswick. The NBFL represents more than 31,000 members who belong to more than 200 local sections. Since 1989, the NBFL has been asking the government of New Brunswick to adopt pay equity legislation in the private and public sectors.
 

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