BURNABY It took 13 years but women emergency dispatchers may finally get paid the same as their male counterparts based on a Supreme Court of British Columbia decision released today.
The decision quashes an earlier ruling by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal that allowed the City of Vancouver to pay women police dispatchers, once called communications operators, far less than male fire dispatchers.
The city had argued that the women worked for the Vancouver Police Board. The tribunal agreed. This meant the city could continue to pay women dispatchers an average $22,000 to $33,000 a year less than the male fire dispatchers. Under the B.C. Human Rights Code you cannot compare wages paid by two separate employers.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees appealed the decision through a judicial review process. The Supreme Court agreed with the unions arguments. The court will send it back to the Human Rights Tribunal. It will have to reconsider the issue.
This is a great forward step for the dispatchers, for women workers and for CUPE, said Conni Kilfoil, a CUPE lawyer. The union funded much of the case.
There are major implications for five other municipalities as well. Richmond, Coquitlam, Burnaby, New Westminster and North Vancouver all have emergency dispatchers. All had filed human rights complaints that were wrongly dismissed by the Human Rights Commission based on the City of Vancouver decision.
Hopefully this seals off any further attempts to try to evade paying women equally using a spurious argument about who employs the dispatchers, said Anita Braha, legal counsel to the emergency dispatchers and CUPE. It has implications for municipalities with police boards but also for other similar boards and commissions.
The previous decision does not stand any longer, Braha said. This is very good news for all women workers.
Conni Kilfoil, CUPE Legal and Legislative Representative
Ron Verzuh, CUPE Communications
604-291-1940 or 828-7668.