equity pay in ontario, or, why we still need feminism

Antonia Zerbisias had a great column this week about equity pay - and the lack thereof - in Ontario.
A woman's work is not only never done, it's never valued as highly as a man's.

Ten years ago, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union announced that the average assistant teacher in child care centres was paid less than the average wage of a parking attendant.

Do we value jockeying our cars more than caring for our kids?

Nothing has changed.

Today, on the 20th anniversary of Ontario's pay equity legislation, women are even seeing their wages shrink relative to men's.

That's according to at least two major reports released last week.

The first is Working Women: Still a Long Way from Equality by the Canadian Labour Congress. It shows that, in 2005, female fulltime workers earned, on average, $39,200 compared to men, who earned $55,700 – a wage gap of $16,500, or 42 per cent of a woman's paycheque.

That means women earn 70.5 cents on the man's dollar, down from 72 cents just over 10 years ago.

It's not that the women are less-qualified or educated than men. It's that there are still "pink ghettoes" on the job market, entire job classifications seen as not worthy of parking lot attendant wages.

The second study, Putting Fairness Back Into Women's Pay, comes from the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It accuses the Ontario government of shortchanging its own lowest-paid female workers.

"It has failed to deliver approximately $78.1 million in pay equity adjustments owing to women for 2006-07," the centre says. "A further $467.9 million is owed from 2008-11. As a result, the government is now open to another Charter challenge (the last challenge forced the Harris government to pay up)."

"This is the government with its own employees. It's outrageous," says NDP labour critic Cheri DiNovo.

Both groups hope that when Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan tables his budget on March 25, female government workers will get some of the surplus he will no doubt be crowing about. They also want women's issues – which by extension include child welfare, poverty and the well-being of seniors – to get serious consideration.

Most important, they demand that pay equity enforcement measures be reinstated, to ensure employers comply with the law.

The column is here, and in this blog post, you can read more.

This reminds me, I didn't highlight Zerbisias' post on the C-484 vote. It's pretty much a round-up of what we've all been saying, but I thank her very much for writing so strongly about it. We are lucky to have her.

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