A court in Ontario has declared that differing pay scales for men and women are fine as long as they level out at the high end. The Divisional Court was hearing a case between two companies, Lakeridge Health Corp., and York Region District School Board and their union, which had asked for the different rates of progression.
The court was unmoved by the fact that with the rates of progression, women will have to work longer to achieve the top levels of pay at which they will receive equal pay for work of equal value. The panel of judges declared that the Pay Equity Act “does not contemplate the elimination of all discrepancies between comparably valued male and female job classes.”
According to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, women have to work three years to earn the higher pay grade while men can generally do it in one year. The lawyer for the union, a specialist in pay equity, called the decision outrageous. The court did acknowledge that the Pay Equity Act is vulnerable to a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees equality under the law and freedom from discrimination based on sex.
The Union has not yet said whether they will continue with the case or take a Charter Challenge to the courts, but it is clear that something must be done to fix the disparity and ensure the Pay Equity Act is being respected. If anything it is almost more important that the lower levels of a pay scale are more equal, because women and children living in poverty is a major issue in this country.
In 2007, the average income of a Canadian woman was $29,200 compared to $44,400 for a man. That year, 1.5 million women were living below the poverty line. More than 1 in 7 Canadian children lives in poverty. Among single mothers, 52.1 percent with children under the age of six live below the poverty line.
Photo Credit: Robert Thivierge