Hope Vande Beek
Duties of the Pay and Social Equity Committee
AUPE’s Constitution sets out the duties of the Pay and Social Equity Committee as follows:
The Pay and Social Equity Committee shall:
- Educate – to educate members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), and the public on the issues related to pay equity and social reform;
- Lobby – all levels of government, other unions and the public for legislation addressing pay equity and social reform;
- Information – establish and maintain a database of current information and legislation related to pay equity and social reform;
- Action – prepare and present policies, briefs and information on pay equity and social reform issues as required;
- Research – pay and social equity issues within AUPE in relation to classifications, gender and systemic discrimination; recruitment and retention strategies; and
- Research – utilize research initiatives to compare rates of pay and classifications within the public and private sectors.
Q: What is Pay Equity?
A: Pay equity is:
- Equal Pay for work of Equal Value and an inherent right set out in the Canadian Human Rights Act – Section 11 of the Canadian Human Rights Act includes a provision that establishes the right of equal pay for work of equal value, and
- Not law in Alberta, and
- In Alberta the Human Rights and Multiculturalism Act provides for equal pay for equal work, meaning that if a man and woman are doing the same job, they must be paid the same wages.
Q: Do all provinces have pay equity legislation?
A: Sadly, Alberta is one of two provinces in Canada which lacks pay equity legislation. The second is British Columbia. Employers, such as the Government of Alberta, are reluctant to even get into the debate, much less prepared to bring forward legislation to deal with this issue. Such reluctance and lack of legislation means that inequity will continue to exist. Many work sites, including the Government, are moving towards a point rating evaluation plan this allows the employer to entrench pay inequities by refusing to have equal pay for equal points. This means that if the members of one classification receive the same number of points as the members of a different classification within the same collective agreement they would receive the same compensation. However, lacking pay equity legislation means that the employer can completely ignore that and pay members as they choose.
Supporters of pay equity legislation argue that without such legislation many women would continue to be underpaid in society, and that for many of them, they and their children would continue to live at or near the poverty level. Critics of pay equity legislation argue, however, that the entire process of comparing female-dominated job categories with male-dominated job categories is too complex and expensive to be continued.
Is this the Alberta Advantage?
Q: There’s an attitude of “That’s Women’s Work” – Wazzup with that?
A: Historically women tended to work in nursing, clerical, child care, social work, etc. Typically they were thought of as temporary workers and not career minded – a holdover from the days when women were expected to leave the workforce upon marriage or childbearing. The jobs women chose were seen to reflect qualities displayed in the home, such as nurturing, healing and caring. The greater the proportion of women in an occupation, the lower the relative pay.
For example – Why are the cleaning staff in hospitals called housekeepers? They aren’t keeping house. They are keeping an institution clean healthy and safe for patients and staff. Why are the cleaning staff in schools called janitors and not housekeepers? After all they are performing comparable work only in a different institution, keeping schools clean, healthy and safe for students and staff. And why do janitors earn more than housekeepers? Traditionally janitorial work was considered male work and it’s occupation male dominated while housekeeping was considered female work and female dominated.
Unequal pay for similar work when the difference is based only on gender difference is pure discrimination.
Q: What are the stats for 2002 between Canadian women and men?
A: The statistics are staggering — in 2002 70% of employed Canadian women worked in occupations that resembled the kinds of unpaid work that they have traditionally done in the household (nurses, teachers, clerks, and sales and service occupations) compared with 30% of men (Stats Can). As we see, work traditionally done by women has been undervalued and underpaid for a variety of reasons. Pay Equity addresses this by comparing classes of jobs that are predominantly done by women with those predominantly done by men. The skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions required by the job and the working conditions of the job are evaluated and compared.
In a jurisdiction which has pay equity legislation, if any female dominated jobs in a workplace are found to be of equal or comparable value to male dominated jobs, and are found to be underpaid then all employees in those female dominated jobs are entitled to receive pay equity wage adjustment.
Q: What can Pay Inequity lead to?
A: Pay Inequity leads to increased levels of poverty, which leads to increased health care costs AND leads to increased costs for shelters and housing AND leads to increased community services costs…
Q: What can you do about this inequity? What can we do?
A: Talk about it. You can write your MLA . You can call your MLA and ask to meet for coffee and chat about pay and social equity. Discuss the issue and your concerns about the lack of legislation. You can also contact members of the opposition parties, or ask your MP and members of the federal political parties what they would suggest to enact legislation in every province. Even talk to your municipal leaders: your mayor and city councilors.
You can make a difference. We all can help to make this a better world. We are in this together! Just think about it. Then do something about it.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.