PUTTING FAIRNESS BACK INTO WOMEN’S PAY: THE CASE FOR PAY EQUITY IN ONTARIO
prepared by Mary Cornish
Ontario’s Pay Equity Act celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, but the party will be bittersweet.
The province’s 1988 Pay Equity Act promised to bring fair-ness to working women’s paycheques. It was supposed to end the systemic pay discrimination that undervalued and underpaid women’s work in the public and private sectors. The Act required and still requires employers and trade unions take proactive steps, with the backing of a specialized commission and tribunal enforcement regime. In 1992, the government promised to fund the pay equity adjustments required to end gender pay discrimination for workers delivering public services. Twenty years later, these promises have not been kept.
While the Act helped reduce the gender pay gap from 38% in 1985, women, on average, still earn 29% less than men. The law is regularly violated. Despite this, government funding for enforcement of the law has been cut in half since the early 1990s. Millions of dollars are owed in public sector pay equity adjustments. As a result, employers and governments continue to rely on discriminatory wages to cut costs.
Ontario’s 2008 budget can play an important role in ending this pattern of discriminatory pay and setting Ontario on a new economic course — one that fairly values women’s work.