This subject comes up every five years since the Pay Equity Act was passed in 1996. Whether a nurse, licensed practical nurse, respiratory therapist or clinical perfusionist, we all ask the same question: how long are we going to wait for the government, our employer, to do its homework and take into account the changes that may affect the value of our jobs?
Because a lot can happen in five years. Have job titles been created? Was a collective agreement negotiated? Have the labour laws been amended? Have our professional orders implemented new requirements that change our professional practices? Are we forced to qualify with new training? Lastly, have all these changes created wage differentials between male-and female-dominate job categories? That’s the main question!
Because if the law is historic and somewhat revolutionary for women, we must make sure that employers do not behave like offenders. They have to respect the law.
At the FIQ, this file is so important, that we have, all professions combined, set up a maintaining pay equity ad hoc committee to participate in the various work on maintaining the value of our jobs. It is a fact that unions know that gender pay gaps persist in society, particularly in the private sector or in sectors where equity exercises have not been carried out. In fact, in 1998, the average pay for women was about 83% of that of men. In 2021, the difference was still 91%, according to the Institut de la statistique du Québec. It takes time to really correct the systemic discrimination that affects the value of women’s work. These figures are indicators that we must be vigilant!
So what has been happening to healthcare professionals since 2020, the date set by law for the most recent maintenance exercise for our various professions?
Although the FIQ and all the unions were ready to collaborate in carrying out the pay equity audit, the Secretariat of the Treasury Board (SCT) asked to postpone the work until after 2020. Faced with their inaction, the unions filed complaints to move the work forward. The labour organizations consulted each other on numerous occasions, approached the SCT, and the Pay Equity Division of the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), responsible for applying the law.
At the time of writing this, two years later, the unions are still looking for a way to ensure the fairest possible representation of women workers in the maintenance exercise. The FIQ union representatives are monitoring the SCT work so as not to confuse the maintenance exercise with the negotiations currently underway. In this regard, it is imperative to remember that pay equity is a right protected by law, which supersedes collective agreements.
We share your impatience and, like you, we want to win. For jobs that will have to be revalued, you should know that late payments will be paid retroactively according to the established corrective measures, in the form of a lump sum plus interest at the legal rate.
We are ready and will do everything possible to bring this file to a successful conclusion. Like all of you, we look forward to concluding this exercise, it is a matter of justice!
Pay Equity Maintenance Committee