Approaching Equal Pay Day in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford and the PC provincial government are being urged by tens of thousands of long-term care staff to “stand with them and value their work” by not appealing a recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision that would raise their wages.

Earlier this month, the Ontario Court of Appeal issued an important decision in an ongoing, pay equity case – spanning more than 15 years - focused on the rights of workers in predominantly female public-sector workplaces.

If this decision stands and is not appealed by the provincial government, “it will have positive and far-reaching implications for the wages of staff in long-term care and other female-dominated workplaces,” says Candace Rennick the secretary-treasurer of CUPE Ontario. However, if the government opts to appeal, it would mean further delays in thousands of mostly female workers in long-term care workplaces not getting wages owed them and regrettably show that this PC government is disingenuous when hailing long-term care staff as pandemic heroes.”

Previously the provincial government took the side of for-profit, long-term care providers to deny pay equity to thousands of mostly female long-term care workers.

“Unfortunately, the province has been shirking their responsibility to fund proxy pay equity for a long time,” Rennick says. “Before the pandemic it was hard enough to recruit new PSWs and RPNs into long-term care – letting this decision stand is one practical step this government can take to address the staffing crisis. Rather than siding with for-profit employers in court to suppress the wages of this deserving female workforce, this government should do the right thing and let the pay equity process at the Tribunal unfold.”

The recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision, which is based on a previous proxy pay case appealed by the government (and long-term care employers outside of those in the public municipal sector) found that to be able to properly establish, and maintain, pay equity in a workplace there needs to be an ongoing comparison between male and female job classifications. The decision also found that where those comparisons are not possible within a workplace that a proxy method is required.

“There are many ways the Ontario PC government can show that it values the dedication of personal support workers, nurses and other long-term staff have shown throughout this COVID-19 crisis. One of these is not to appeal this court decision as they’ve done previously. Another is to rectify the error they made in last week’s Ontario budget when they failed to provide for a permanent $4/hour wage bump for all health care workers,” says Rennick.

The proxy method was introduced to ensure that women in public-sector workplaces with few or no male jobs could use pay equity target rates from workplaces that achieved pay equity using male comparators as a reference point for developing their own pay equity plans.