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Tribunal supports pay equity complaints

SASKATOON - The Canadian Union of Public Employees says a series of decisions released by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal this month demonstrates the importance of pay equity to women’s equality and the need for provincial government action.

Not one workplace has been added to the provincial government’s pay equity policy since 1999,” says CUPE Saskatchewan President Tom Graham. “Under Calvert’s leadership, the pay equity file has remained empty,” he adds.

Although CUPE represents more women than any other union in the province, “the majority of our 25,000 members working in Saskatchewan schools, libraries, municipalities and community-based agencies are not covered by the government’s pay equity policy,” Graham states.

He hopes this month’s rulings by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal motivate the Calvert government to take legislative action.

In eight separate decisions released this month involving clerical workers at the University of Saskatchewan, members of CUPE Local 1975, Tribunal Chair Karen Prisciak says the human rights commission must investigate complaints of pay discrimination against women, stating its part of the commission’s goal of ensuring equality of opportunity in the workplace.

Last year, the Chief Commissioner dismissed a large number of wage discrimination complaints filed by CUPE members working in female-dominated jobs at the university and group homes around the province.

The Chief Commissioner ruled that pay equity complaints fell outside the purview of the human rights code.

But the Chair of the Human Rights Tribunal disagreed, stating: “Human rights legislation has the status of ‘fundamental law’ and must be interpreted liberally to fulfill its objectives.”

The tribunal’s decisions “re-open” the door for women to file wage discrimination complaints under the human rights code – the only avenue available for many workers in female-dominated jobs.

Graham says the large number of pay equity complaints filed with the commission illustrates the scope of the wage discrimination problem, but he says the solution requires legislative action.

For the past 10 years, both CUPE and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission have been calling on the provincial government to implement pay equity legislation and establish a separate pay equity commission. Graham says now that Saskatchewan is a “have province,” there’s no excuse for not implementing pay equity legislation, adding most provinces enacted laws years ago.

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For more information:

Tom Graham in Regina at 306-229-8171