Saturday, December 12, 2009

Michael Ignatieff Wants to Make Pay Equity for Women a Human Right

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has made pay equity for women, not just a priority; but wants to make it a human rights issue. This is the Michael Ignatieff I know and love.

He also reminds us again that a child care plan is a must. As a nation we must continue to move forward, and Mr. Ignatieff will do just that.

Liberals call for recognition of pay equity as a human right
December 9, 2009

OTTAWA – Equal pay for work of equal value is a basic human right that should never be subject to negotiation, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said today as debate begins on his private member’s bill.

“The Harper Conservatives very clearly used their 2009 budget to impose their ideological opposition to pay equity for Canadian women,” said Mr. Ignatieff.

“They took a fundamental right that existed under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and turned it into something up for grabs at the bargaining table. This bill will immediately reverse the changes they made and treat pay equity as the human right that it is.”

Mr. Ignatieff made his remarks as the House of Commons began debating Bill C-471, his bill to repeal measures in the Conservative budget that effectively reclassified pay equity as a labour issue for members of the federal public service, the federally regulated private sector and Crown Corporations. The Conservative measures removed the authority of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to adjudicate pay equity complaints.

“The government has left pay equity to be negotiated during collective bargaining, ignoring that it is first and foremost an issue of fundamental human rights and gender equality,” he stated.

The bill calls on the government to implement the recommendations of the 2004 Federal Pay Equity Task Force – with strict timelines to bring about change – and proposes a new Federal Pay Equity Commission to address complaints.

“Everyone agreed the pay equity regime needed overhaul, which is why the Liberal Government in 2001 appointed this task force to undertake broad consultations and to make informed recommendations on how best to do that,” said Mr. Ignatieff.

“But instead of looking to these recommendations, this government chose to make changes that fit their narrow view of women, a view that amounts to an attack on equality and womens’ economic security,” Mr. Ignatieff said.

Mr. Ignatieff was joined at the press conference by members of the Liberal Women’s Caucus, including Chair Maria Minna and LaSalle-Émard MP Lise Zarac. Also joining him to lend their public support for the bill were representatives from the Canadian Federation of University Women and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).

“The Liberal Women’s Caucus is supportive of this bill every step of the way, and pleased that it addresses the recommendation in our Pink Book to reverse the Conservative attacks,” said Ms. Minna.

Ms. Zarac said everyone agreed the existing federal pay equity system needed reform “but what the Conservatives did was unforgiveable. Pay equity cuts to the very core of women’s equality, and I would hope all MPs support this legislation.”

Liberal Status of Women Critic Anita Neville pointed out how under the Harper government, the gender gap in Canada has grown.

“We are now shamefully ranked 25th in the world in terms of female participation in economic and political life,” she said. “This is a result of the systematic dismantling of women’s rights and equality by a Conservative government that continues to view women as ‘left-wing fringe groups.’

“We need action now to reverse this trend and ensure women in the public service are always paid the same as their male colleagues for work of the same value. I encourage all MPs to support this bill – and the government to honour it,” she said.

Facts about Women in Canada
Pay Equity Backgrounder:

What the Conservatives did:

• The 2009 Budget Implementation Act included a stand-alone section entitled the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act (PSECA).
• This free-standing legislation altered the federal pay equity regime so that it no longer exists under the rubric of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and removes the Canadian Human Rights Commission as the forum for adjudication of complaints.
• Complaints must now be filed with the Public Service Labour Relations Board.
• This board has a narrower mandate focused generally on adjudication of collective bargaining disputes and grievances. It does not have the expertise nor a sufficiently broad scope to examine pay equity complaints from a human rights perspective.
• In other words, it leaves the fundamental right to pay equity in the hands of employers and employees at the regular collective bargaining table, leaving it subject to negotiation.
• PSECA also forbids unions from representing their members in pay equity disputes and even threatens fines of up to $50,000 for doing so.

What Liberals will do:

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s Private Member’s Bill, C-471, based on the key 2004 recommendations of the Federal Pay Equity Task Force entitled Pay Equity: A New Approach to a Fundament Right, will:
• Repeal the measures in the Conservative budget that effectively classified pay equity as a labour issue to be negotiated during the regular collective bargaining process, ignoring that it is primarily an issue of fundamental human rights and gender equality;
• Create a Federal Pay Equity Commission charged with overseeing a proactive pay equity system within the federal public service, the federally regulated private sector and Crown Corporations by a firm deadline in 2012 – one that will return the pay equity regime to the human rights realm;
• Characterize new stand-alone, proactive pay equity legislation as human rights legislation;
• Support this new legislation with adequate human and financial resources so that participants in the pay equity process have access to advice, information and training;
• Carefully consider this new legislative scheme in relation to other policies and practices aimed at the elimination of discrimination based on gender.

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