Pay Equity Appeal Short Changes Women: Chretien Cheats on Equality Promises

By Mitchell, Penni | Herizons, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview
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Pay Equity Appeal Short Changes Women: Chretien Cheats on Equality Promises


Mitchell, Penni, Herizons


Name the leader of a North American country with a reputation for dishonesty and poor treatment towards women.

If you picked Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, you win. If you're one of the 200,000 federal civil service employees waiting patiently for 13 years for a pay equity wage adjustment, you lose. At least for now.

At the end of August, the Chretien government announced that the federal government would appeal the July Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling on pay equity, worth an estimated $4 billion. The tribunal, chaired by Donna Gillis, a BC labour arbitrator, found that the government violated the Human Rights Act and imposed a method of determining pay equity that favoured the employees' union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).

By appealing the decision, Chretien broke a 1993 election pledge. "A Liberal government would abide by the tribunal's decision and work with reprentatives of the employees on a mutually acceptable and workable plan for the implementation of equal pay for work of equal value," Chretien vowed in a letter to PSAC.

Women's groups see the appeal as part of a larger pattern -- that is, Chretien's backsliding on issues of importance to women. This includes his abandonment of a national day care program; the closure of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women; the 40% cuts to the federal women's program.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Anne McLellan said that a federal court judge's interpretation in the pay equity, case of Bell Canada created "legal inconsistencies." Legal experts pointed out that the judge in the Bell case held four days of public hearings and heard no testimony on pay equity models before coming up with its restrictive interpretation on job comparisons. By contrast, the Human Rights Tribunal in the PSAC case held 250 days of public hearings and heard testimony on models for pay equity before recommending a model whereby different jobs could be compared using criteria of skill, effort, responsibilities and working conditions to come up with comparable wages.

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