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On July 29th Ottawa was shaken by earth tremors that measured 4.4 on the Richter scale.

But that was nothing compared to the tremors earlier in the day after the release of the long awaited pay equity ruling for federal government workers.

More than 200,000 clerks, secretaries, librarians and health care workers had waited 14 years for a decision on the pay equity complaint filed by the Public Service Alliance of Canada. The ruling recognized that they had been paid less than the value of their work and ordered retroactive increases to 1985. The Tribunal also ordered the government to pay interest on the amount owed.

The settlement is estimated to be worth up to $4 billion. The federal workers, mostly women, will receive a raise, retroactive payment and for those who have since retired, an increase in their pension.

Flight attendants, who are also under federal jurisdiction, hailed the ruling as a welcome precedent. CUPEs Airline Division filed pay equity complaints against Air Canada in 1991 and Canadian Airlines in 1992. Neither case has been heard by a Human Rights Tribunal thanks to the stonewalling of the companies.

The companies took their lead from the federal government which spent 14 years trying to evade its own law, said Denise Hill, president of the Airline Division. The employers have both taken an incredibly insulting position on our pay equity complaints, preventing us from getting to the substance of the issue an investigation of wage discrimination based on sex.

While most CUPE members are subject to provincial jurisdiction, the impact of the decision is likely to be felt across the country.

The ruling sends a clear signal to governments and employers that pay equity is a right that cant be ignored, said National President Judy Darcy. By stalling, theyve only increased the cost of the settlement, paying billions of dollars in interest. Now we can step up the pressure on other employers to stop the delay tactics and get on with paying women decent wages.