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Ontario gender wage-gap commission releases interim report

Equal Pay Day ButtonsThere’s significant agreement on what causes the wage gap between men and women, according to a summary of submissions made to Ontario’s Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee. There’s even some agreement on the solutions.

USW and 50 other organizations made submissions to the committee, which also received survey responses from over 1,400 individuals in the province.

The summary was released on Equal Pay Day, April 19. That day represents how much more (3 ½ months) the average woman has to work to earn as much as a man did in just the 12 months of 2015. Put another way, Canadian women earn on average 30% less than men.

Causes of the wage gap include:

  • Over-representation of women in vulnerable, low-paid jobs
  • A lack of unionization for women in vulnerable sectors
  • Undervaluing of so-called “women’s work”
  • Women being segregated in lower-paid occupations
  • Women shouldering more responsibility for unpaid work at home, such as caring for children and cleaning
  • Flawed legislation, including the Pay Equity Act, the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act.

Many individuals and organizations, including USW, also emphasized the role that outright discrimination plays in causing the wage gap. Women face discrimination in hiring, promotion and everyday working life, particularly women who are racialized, Aboriginal, LGBTQ, immigrants or who have disabilities. That discrimination is based on stereotypes of what women are capable of doing. It influences the types of jobs women are able to get and how those jobs are valued.

USW made a number of recommendations to close the gender wage gap, including:

  • Organize new members
  • Pressure governments to pass or strengthen pay-equity laws, laws that provide leaves of absence for family care-givers and domestic-violence victims, and laws that make it easier to organize unions
  • Demand quality, affordable, public childcarewith living wages for childcare workers
  • Treat the gender wage gap as a human rights issue
  • At the bargaining table, push for transparent pay, hiring and promotion practices to close the gender wage gap and open up higher-paid classifications to women.
  • Ensure job evaluation accurately reflects women’s work
  • Strengthen women’s voices in our union, in organizing, bargaining, job evaluation and in leadership positions

The summary showed significant support for collective solutions, including improving access to unions, bargaining to gain access for women to higher-paying jobs, bargaining to move women’s jobs out of the bottom of the pay scale, and bargaining to improve all wages in feminized sectors of employment. Most submissions also challenged the notion that women simply need to “lean in” and negotiate better salaries on their own.

“It’s encouraging to see that there is much common ground,” said researcher Meg Gingrich, author of USW’s submission. “We’re hopeful that our recommendations and those made by many others across the province will lead to real action to eliminate the wage gap, with emphasis on women having the power to take collective action on this persistent problem.”  

The final recommendations of the Ontario Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee are expected later this year.

USW Locals Take Action

Local 2010:

On Equal Pay Day (April 19), USW Local 2010 took to the streets of Kingston to support women’s equality, demanding equal pay for work of equal value! USW joined fellow Equal Pay Coalition allies PSAC 901, QUFA and AMS to bring attention to the goal of closing the gender wage gap by 2025.

Local 1998:

USW Local 1998 held an Equal Pay Day lunch session on closing the gender wage gag, highlighted by a presentation from the USW research department on District 6’s recommendations to close the gender wage gap. The discussion included an overview of the causes of the unacceptable 31.5% pay gap women continue to experience, as well as several concrete ways we can eliminate the gap. Ending the wage gap comes down to organizing, bargaining and working collectively!

Read the USW submission on the gender wage gap

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