Oh, equal pay for equal work—I hardly knew ye

March 8th is International Women’s Day. Seems like as good a reason as any to discuss Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Bill C-10, tied to the new budget.

At first blush it may all seem fine and dandy—in the budget overall he appears to be doing what is necessary to fight the economic problems in Canada. Thankfully our situation is far less dire than those in the U.S. and many other countries, but it is still a crisis and Canadians are still worried. So it’s a situation ripe for exploitation if you wanted to, for example, slyly implement laws that would set the women’s rights movement back a few decades.

The Conservative government, with the oafish support of the Liberals and their leader Michael Ignatieff (who have said they would support the budget and any of its bills), is attacking age-old pay equity laws.

You know, pay equity? That pesky little gnat that insists women should receive pay equal to men for doing work of equal value?

Buried somewhere in the endless Budget Implementation Act (Bill C-10) is the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. Sounds nice, huh? It even has the phrase “equitable compensation” right there in the title!

It’s sneaky, and if you read the long and boring document a little lazily, as I did, you might miss it. It seems to pay lip service to pay equity, but at the same time it undermines the legal recourse of women in the case of discrimination.

Bill C-10’s “Equitable Compensation Act” would put a stop to the right of women working in the public sector to make pay equity complaints to the Federal Human Rights Commission. Instead, such issues would be negotiated with employers. And that is just as ridiculous as it sounds.

Pay equity is a protected right and should not be negotiated as part of a collective bargaining agreement. “Okay, you can pay the women 70% of what the men make, but we want our break times extended by five minutes.”

Women are still paid on average 70% of what men make for doing the same work. It’s 2009! And now, Stephen Harper wants to take away a woman’s right to legally challenge such pay inequity with the Federal Human Rights Commission. Let’s be clear here—we’re talking about amending the Human Rights Act.

That’s beyond the pale.

If this irks you in any way, then contact your MP and let them know—but do it quickly because we don’t have much time left. Registering your displeasure will only take a few mouse clicks and keyboard strokes; visit this web site: http://petition.web.net/psac/node/26. If you don’t know your MP’s name, it will be filled in for you automatically when you type in your postal code.

There is also a Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=51360783903.

I have given the gist of the issues of the Act for the purposes of this posting because otherwise it would be insanely long and boring. But if you’re like me, then you’re either a geek or a rationalist who likes to see things with your own eyes rather than take someone’s word for it, so you can read the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act part of the Bill here: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=3656090&Langu&File=482. Or just do a Google search and see what’s out there. Lots of MPs from other parties have written about it.

There is more offensive stuff in the Bill, too, like capping wage increases, weakening environmental protections, and increasing foreign ownership in Canada. If you’re so bold, you can read the entire Bill C-10 here: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=3656090&Langu.

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