The Chair of the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity says the provincial government is dragging its feet on implementing a wage equity law passed seven years ago, in 2009.
Vallie Stearns-Anderson says the law applies to many workers in the public sector, but very few have seen any benefit from it.
“It just seems to me there isn’t a lot of fire in the engine,” she says.
“There isn’t enough political will to make it happen because it could have happened a long time ago.”
The Pay Equity Act requires public sector employers to provide equal pay for work of equal value.
That could benefit workers such as secretaries who are predominantly female, but who are paid less than workers such as predominantly male technicians, even when both occupations require comparable qualifications, levels of skill, effort and responsibility.
Stearns-Anderson says the law applies to work in public institutions including government departments, hospitals and schools.
The government has been meeting with unions to conduct the job evaluations needed to implement the law, but she says, most evaluations have yet to be completed and even when they have, the province hasn’t made a decision on what the pay adjustments are going to be.
“It will happen eventually,” she says. “It should have happened a long time ago, but it will happen.”
In the meantime, the Coalition is campaigning for the law to be extended to cover private businesses, universities, municipalities and the non-profit sector where it says child care workers, for example, are grossly underpaid.
Women’s wage gap
Stearns-Anderson made her comments following her presentation today at Mount Allison University, one of a series of events to mark International Women’s Day.
She told her Mt. A. audience that the workforce in New Brunswick is evenly split between women and men, but, on average, female workers are paid only 89 cents per hour for every dollar that men receive.
And when the pay for male and female workers is compared on an annual basis, she said that on average, women are paid only about 65 per cent of what men get partly because women tend to be relegated to part-time or temporary jobs with fewer hours.
“If we’re performing work that’s work of equal value to a man why should we not be paid for the work of that value?” she asks.
She adds that pay equity would alleviate poverty while putting money into the hands of women to buy goods and pay taxes.
“There’s all kinds of economic reasons why there should be pay equity for women, but really at the core of it, it’s a basic human right.”