Open letter to Liberal MP Larry Bagnell:
As you know, the Harper government plans to forbid the Canadian Human Rights Commission from hearing complaints from federal public servants on pay equity.
This measure, which is buried in the current budget bill, tabled on February 6, 2009, means women will be forced to negotiate their inherent right to equal pay for work of equal value.
Under the new system, public-sector unions and government would be jointly responsible for resolving pay-equity concerns during contract negotiations – deals that union rank and file will ultimately have to bless. This leaves workers to fight grievances on their own and unions facing fines of up to $50,000 if they help mount complaints.
As women still earn only 71 per cent of what men do, our caucus believes the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act is discriminatory, regressive, unfair and probably even motivated by political ideology. Harper has gone on record as saying pay equity is a “rip-off.”
This act will only serve to perpetuate the systemic discrimination female workers face while doing virtually nothing to help the economy or save money. It should not be part of a budget bill and should not be passed.
Your leader is on record as saying your party will not vote against this bill at this time because “Canadians don’t want another election.” Well, that’s a poor excuse for not standing up to defend women’s rights while narrowing the income gap between men and women within the federal public service.
We agree wholeheartedly with the views expressed by the northern regional executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
“Pay equity is a constitutionally protected human right that we have spent decades fighting for,” says Jean-Francois Des Lauriers. “Human rights should never be negotiable, especially at the bargaining table, where the employer historically holds the balance of power. If this legislation should pass, constitutionally protected rights for women everywhere will continue to erode unless opposition parties vote this legislation down.”
Considering your party has decided for purely political reasons to support the budget bill, we would be most interested in hearing your views on the pay-equity issue at your earliest convenience. Thank you.
Peter Lesniak, special assistant Yukon NDP Caucus,