Our government respects the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. Our commitment to this fundamental right is why we introduced the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act.
The facts are clear: the current pay equity system in the federal public service is broken…It is lengthy, costly and adversarial. Because our current process is complaint-based, these issues are only addressed as an afterthought when complaints are made.
As a result, women are forced to wait up to 20 years for compensation following gruelling and divisive court proceedings. In fact, many employees have already left the public service by the time complaints are settled. Why is this happening? Because under the current system, federal public service employers and unions are not required to take pay equity issues into account when they engage in wage setting.
This is not fair to women. There is a better way.
Our approach will ensure employers and unions take pay equity into consideration every time they negotiate wages. It will be transparent.
It is time for employers and unions to be jointly accountable for setting fair wages, for reporting publicly to employees and for sticking to the commitments they make at the bargaining table. We should be putting dollars in the hands of women and not into the hands of those involved in costly and lengthy legal proceedings.
Others share our viewpoint. The Federally Regulated Employers Transportation and Communication organization recently told a parliamentary committee that the proposed legislation “makes sense” and both collective bargaining parties must be “responsible for implementing pay equity.”
In 2004, a Liberal-appointed task force concluded that proactive pay equity legislation is a more effective way of protecting the rights of women. The same task force recommended that Parliament enact new stand-alone pay equity legislation. This is exactly what we are proposing to do.
Our legislation addresses the key recommendations of the 2004 report by setting out a proactive and collaborative system to ensure equal pay for work of equal value – it does not change human rights, it protects them.
And we are putting teeth in this legislation. Fines will be imposed on either employers or unions who do not comply with their duty to ensure fair wages. As a further protection, employees will be able to resolve any disputes through the Public Service Labour Relations Board, an independent tribunal.
Pay equity legislation has been continually evolving since the first proactive legislation was introduced in Manitoba in 1986, followed by Ontario and Quebec. Our new federal model is an improvement over existing models. It goes a step further by truly integrating equitable compensation into the wage-setting process and ensuring continuous proactive action for years to come.
Women deserve fair pay rates now and every time their collective agreements are renewed. Not 20 years from now.
Vic Toews, president of the Treasury Board of Canada, and MP for the Manitoba riding of Provencher