A Landmark Decision
A landmark decision on pay equity will be released on September 24, 2018, by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO).
This precedent-setting case may change how workers in female-dominated professions worldwide are compensated. In 2013, Ontario’s midwives filed an application with the tribunal alleging discrimination in their pay from the provincial government for almost two decades. It is the first case of its kind ever considered by the HRTO.
The Pay Equity Gap
The pay equity gap in Ontario is 31.5% (Statistics Canada, 2011). That means women would need to work 14 years past retirement age to make what men earn on average by the same age (Equal Pay Coalition, 2011). According to the Equal Pay Coalition of Ontario, the gap continues to widen.
The most female-dominated profession in Ontario is midwifery. Ontario’s midwives face a pay equity gap of at least 48%, according to the Association of Ontario Midwives (Durber Report, 2013). But it’s not just a provincial problem.
Katrina Kilroy, President of the Canadian Association of Midwives (Photo Courtesy: Mike Lewis)
“Midwives across the country face the same conditions that affect midwives in Ontario in terms of gender bias,” explains the Canadian Association of Midwives president, Katrina Kilroy.
Discrimination in pay is not limited to just one profession or demographic. Regardless of the personal and professional choices people make, gender-based systemic discrimination affects all gendered sectors of work.
The pay equity gap is not just about gender. When experienced by racialized women, Indigenous women, immigrant and migrant women, women with disabilities, elderly women and LGBTQ communities, the pay gap increases substantially. Indigenous women in Ontario earn 40% less compared to non-Indigenous men (Equal Pay Coalition, 2011). In addition, the pay gap affects all workers in female-dominated professions, not just women.
“I think it’s actually important to the whole society that we pay people fairly in these highly female-dominated professions," says Katrina. "What does it mean to us as a society if we decide that this profession of women for women doesn’t deserve to be paid as equitably as other professions? What’s that say about us as a society?”
Pay Equity is a Human Right
Pay equity is not a privilege or a frill. It’s a fundamental human right for everyone in Ontario. It’s the law.
Ontario midwife, Nabal Kanaan, meets with a client at The Midwives Clinic of East York/Don Mills in Toronto (Photo Courtesy: Ashley Eve Photography)
Ontario’s Pay Equity Act was passed more than 30 years ago. The Act describes the minimum requirements for employers to provide pay equity for all employees in female job classes. It requires employers to equally value jobs usually done by women and jobs usually done by men in an objective and consistent way considering skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions.
Setting A Legal Precedent
Human rights lawyer, Mary Cornish, has fought and won fair pay for hundreds of thousands of female workers in Canada. Now she’s representing Ontario’s midwives. She believes their case will set a precedent not just for other midwives, but for all workers in female-dominated professions in general.
Lawyer and pay equity expert, Mary Cornish, speaks at a press conference for the Association of Ontario Midwives on November 27, 2013. From left to right: Claudette Leduc RM, Lisa Weston RM, Mary Cornish, Mary Ann Leslie RM and Sarah Leslie RM (Photo Courtesy: Canadian Newswire)
"Some of the issues that will be decided by this case involve the use of a gender lens and gender-based budgeting in terms of governments," says Mary. "I think that will set its own precedent in general about the requirements of government to use a human rights lens when they’re deciding policy matters which affect disadvantaged groups.”
Policy makers, governments, academics, activists, and workers in vulnerable professions dominated by women are eagerly awaiting the outcome of this case.
A Provincial Day of Action
Join the Association of Ontario Midwives, the Equal Pay Coalition, and Women’s March Canada for a Provincial Day of Action on Thursday, September 27, 2018. In Toronto, a rally will be held on the lawn of Queen’s Park from 12:15-2:00 pm.
Read More: Pay Equity #Overdue Rally at Queen's Park