CUPE has renewed our call for federal pay equity legislation. A federal House of Commons special committee on pay equity, initiated by an NDP motion, is hearing from witnesses. Annick Desjardins, CUPE Executive Assistant to the National President and human rights lawyer, made a presentation to the committee on April 18.

“CUPE has a lot of experience with pay equity and a lot of expertise in job evaluation, which is an essential part of any pay equity process that aims to be fair,” Desjardins explained to the special committee.

CUPE pioneered gender-neutral job evaluation and made groundbreaking pay equity wins under the patchwork of provincial systems. We’ve also seen wage justice denied to tens of thousands of women, including flight attendants whose pay discrimination complaint was dismissed after a defective and protracted 22-year battle. We know what works: proactive pay equity legislation.

In the early 2000s, the federal Pay Equity Task Force came to the same conclusions after three years of consultations and research. Its comprehensive 2004 report laid out the model for a proactive federal pay equity law – one that remains relevant today.

“In a proactive model, methods are defined in the law and then simply applied by the committee. In a complaints-based model, pay equity methods are subject to litigation in the courts, with experts, counter-experts, testimony, cross-examinations. […] It’s endless,” Desjardins explained.

“So obviously that’s why the system is inefficient. We need all jurisdictions to adopt a proactive model. It would end this costly dispute parade that ultimately settles nothing.”

Despite the recommendations in the 2004 report, the Liberal government of the day maintained the ineffective complaints-driven system.

The Harper government’s Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act (PSECA) set the pay equity agenda further back.

CUPE has real, first-hand experience with these systems and the challenges of working within them. That’s why CUPE is calling for the immediate repeal of PSECA and a proactive federal pay equity law modeled on the 2004 task force recommendations.

The committee will issue a report on June 10.