The Battle of Pay Equity: U.S. vs. Canada

I wonder if Casey earned less than Finnegan though they had the same jobs?  (Yes, I believe Casey was a girl)

I wonder if Casey earned less than Finnegan even though they had the same jobs? (and yes, I believe Casey was a girl)

On April 28, 2009th the U.S. celebrated Equal Pay Day, a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages.  They have a lot to celebrate.  First, on January 9th, the Fair Paycheck Act, which stregthens current pay equity legislation, passed through the House of Representatives and is now in the hands of senators.  Barack Obama signed his first piece of legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on January 29th.  The Act gives victims of wage discrimination the ability to hold their employers accountable for injustice and challenge the practice in court.  The Americans have moved two steps forward towards the goal of achieving pay equity.

So now that we know what our American counterparts are up to, how does Canada rate on the issue of equal pay for equal work between the genders?

Back in December 2008, we were first tipped off that Canada was moving in a different direction than the U.S.  During that time, the Stephen Harper-led Conservative government was facing a potential vote of non-confidence over their budget proposal.  Among the contentious items in the budget was the lack of a plan to manage the economic crisis, the scrapping of “subsidies for political parties, a three-year ban on the right of civil servants to strike and limits on the ability of women to sue for pay equity”

When Parliament resumed in January 2009, the Conservatives had a new plan of attack to improve the economy, kept the subsidiaries to the political parties but kept in the provision to “require pay equity disputes to be settled at the bargaining table, effectively blocking complaints to human rights commissions”.   This legislation is now known as the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act.

On the same day that Obama was lifting his presidential pen to sign the Fair Pay Act, New Democrat leader Jack Layton was giving ‘er to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in parliament over his proposed legislation.

Despite protests from Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Canadian Labour Congress, and the United Steal Workers Union, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, along with the revised federal budget, received royal assent on March 12th, 2009.

Whether the Act will live on is debatable.  Any decisions made by Supreme Court of Canada ultimately trump the parliament and their enacted laws.  The feeling is that when this Act is challenged, it’s likely that it will be deemed unconstitutional (because it contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms)  and never see the light of day.

Canada has historically been on top of Human Rights issues.  But in battle of pay equity, perhaps the results will be U.S. 1, Canada 0.

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