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Workers still being short-changed over pay equity adjustments

GUELPH, ON – In the lead up to Equal Pay Day (April 20), developmental services workers at Community Living Guelph Wellington say that the provincial government’s refusal to provide base funding increases for services is denying women their human right to equal pay.

Employees at the community living agency, which is funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services, are owed approximately $1 million in pay equity adjustments dating back to 2010. The workers support and care for people with developmental disabilities in group homes, day programs and independent living.

“My colleagues and I are beyond frustrated with the situation,” said Joanne Smithers, president of Local 4392 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

“The Pay Equity Commission says we are owed money, but the ministry won’t fund our agency to the level that it can meet its pay equity obligations towards us. It is an untenable situation.”

Community Living Guelph Wellington has stated consistently that it is unable to pay its female workers the money they are owed within existing funding.

Over a year ago, Community Living Guelph Wellington received an order from the Pay Equity Commission’s Review Services that required the agency to pay both union and non-union employees wage adjustments and back pay.

The agency appealed the order. However, earlier this month, a hearings tribunal from the Pay Equity Commission ruled that the agency’s inability to pay could not be used as excuse not to pay what it owed its workers. It ordered the agency to make “retroactive pay equity adjustments to current and former employees with interest to March 31, 2014.”

The government’s last budget provided $810 million over three years to developmental services. Of that amount, none was allocated to agencies’ base funding or to pay equity. Instead, $180 million per year was designated for the stabilization of the developmental services workforce; that money went toward improving wages and working conditions for low-paid workers in the sector, not for pay equity adjustments.

Meanwhile, Smithers charged that services at Community Living Guelph Wellington are increasingly stretched; she described a workforce that is under ever greater stress to provide the same levels of support even though workers are working fewer hours.

“The issue of pay equity adjustments casts a shadow over our regular contract negotiations,” said Smithers. “It is holding up bargaining and could potentially lead to labour disruption – not over current concerns, but over something that should have been dealt with years ago,” Smithers said.

She concluded that only the provincial government could resolve the issue, through the provision of adequate funding of agencies’ legal obligations under the Pay Equity Act.

For more information, contact:

Joanne Smithers
President, CUPE Local 4392
 519-820-5945

Jill Smyth
CUPE National Representative
 519-502-6806

Mary Unan
CUPE Communications
905-739-3999 ext. 240
 647-390-9839