I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of Jack Layton as of late, particularly when it comes to his response to the federal budget. However, I am glad he brought up Budget 2009’s section on women’s pay equity court challenges in question period today.
Like I mentioned in my last blog post, the Conservatives are concerned that the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s pay-equity complaints process is a ” lengthy, costly, and adversarial process that does not serve employees or employers well.”
In the 2009 Budget dropped on Tuesday, the government promises new legislation to modernize the pay equity process for public sector employees where ensuring pay-equity is the joint responsibility of both negotiators and employers.
That’s all well and good, but what happens if the employer and/or negotiator fall down on the job? What recourse do women have to fall back on? Who is going to watch employers and negotiators to make sure they do their job?
Stephen Harper didn’t relieve any concerns about this process, and instead resorted to the partisan name calling common among parliamentarians. Only after he got his jabs in at Layton did Harper say this method was both better, and already being used in Manitoba and Ontario. No proof was offered up of the success of this method in either province.
I propose that legislation to make pay-equity the responsibility of negotiators and employers in the public sector be passed, but — and this is a big but — the right to file a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission not be removed, and a pay-equity ombudsperson position created.
Despite what it says in the budget about the process being costly and time consuming, I think ensuring pay equality between men and women working in the Canadian public sector is worth the $4-billion paid in equity settlements since the 1980s.
One way the government can ensure the cost and process for pay-equity complaints procedures is reduced is to ensure that it is not easy for employers and negotiators to simply “overlook” or “forget” to pay women and men equally by installing an ombudsperson, and not taking away women’s recourse with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.