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Ottawa With nearly half of Canadian women still confronting sexual harassment in the workplace, its time for a serious shake-up of workplaces and wages, says the president of Canadas largest union.
This is about low respect for women, and the low wages that keep them trapped in unacceptable or even dangerous situations, said Judy Darcy, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. About 60 per cent of CUPEs 485,000 members are women.
We need to confront head-on the harassment that still takes place on a daily basis everything from bullying and sexual jokes to picking on women and allowing pinups in the workplace, said Darcy, commenting on a Conference Board of Canada initiative to fight harassment on the job, which included the stark finding that 48 per cent of Canadian women faced a form of sexual harassment in 1999.
But its about more than just raising awareness. Its also about raising womens wages. Living at or near the poverty line leaves women with no escape routes and no options. We need to break that economic dependence, added Darcy.
CUPEs Up with Womens Wages! campaign tackles this issue, calling for an end to the wage gap between men and women improvements in pay equity and minimum wage legislation. Women are still being underpaid, earning an average 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. For women of colour the wage gap is even bigger.
A 1998 International Labour Organization survey put Canada among the worst five nations in terms of workplace assaults, and found women have a 19 per cent higher rate of physical or psychological assault compared to the United States.
Employers have a serious issue on their hands. Women workers are on the front lines in many stressful situations. Add discrimination and harassment to the mix and peoples health and safety is at risk, said Marie Clarke Walker, CUPE Diversity Vice-President.
The shake-up has started from the ground up, with women getting angry and refusing to stand for harassment. You can feel the tremours. Now its time for it to start from the top down, with employers taking action to stamp out unacceptable behaviour and raise womens wages, added Clarke Walker.
CUPE, Canadas largest union, represents 485,000 women and men working in health care, emergency services, education, municipalities, social services, libraries, utilities, transportation and airlines.
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For more information, contact:
Randy Sykes, Executive Assistant to CUPE National President Judy Darcy
(613) 724-0734
Marie Clarke Walker, CUPE National Diversity Vice-President
(416) 409-8565