In a decision handed down today, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of CUPE and its allies by declaring the Liberal government’s 2009 amendments to the Quebec Pay Equity Act, which undermined women’s right to equality, as unconstitutional.
The highest court in the country sided with CUPE, affirming that retroactive pay equity and access to information for female employees must be guaranteed by the legislation.
“This marks a major victory for tens of thousands of women in Quebec. The Supreme Court of Canada recognizes that the changes to the Pay Equity Act denied women the right to be paid fairly and according to the value of their work, a right that men enjoy. Finally, after nine years of pointless waiting, the Quebec Liberals have been proven wrong,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock.
“This ruling clearly states that pay equity is a fundamental right. The Supreme Court acknowledges that women’s compensation is still held back by systemic discrimination even today. It has to stop. Today’s ruling represents a major breakthrough,” added CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury.
The Supreme Court confirmed the Quebec Court of Appeal ruling of October 2016 which ruled in favour of CUPE and its union and community allies. The Court of Appeal ruled that the reform of the Pay Equity Act started by the Liberals in 2009 was unconstitutional, as it infringed on the equality rights of female employees.
This reform ended retroactive adjustments to maintain pay equity. The Court ruled that the absence of retroactivity allowed employers to pay discriminatory salaries for successive periods of up to five years. Moreover, the Pay Equity Act prevented female employees from asserting their rights. Unfortunately, the Couillard government then petitioned the Supreme Court to challenge this ruling that favoured women in Quebec.
The Pay Equity Act was passed more than twenty years ago, and was welcomed by women and labour organizations. The purpose of the Act is to eliminate systemic gender-based discrimination against persons in female-dominated job classes. The Act also compels employers with more than 10 employees to implement pay equity in their company.