The action comes in a settlement of an Ontario Superior Court of Justice Charter application brought by five unions and four individual women. The applicants claimed the government deliberately conducted sexual discrimination contrary to the Charter’s section 15 by failing to provide the necessary pay equity funding in this sector, according to a news release.
>Under the settlement agreement, enhanced accountability mechanisms apply to the government and proxy employers to make sure that employers comply with their pay equity obligations and that the funding required for any such adjustments is properly reflected in budget requests. Estimates are that, on average, the women in this sector will achieve their full pay equity rate by 2011 through the phase-in of adjustments at 1% of payroll per year.
>The ruling stems from a previous Charter challenge in September 1997. In that case, an Ontario Superior Court Justice found that the government’s 1995 repeal of these same women’s proxy pay equity entitlements was unconstitutional. In upholding the challenge brought by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the justice also found that these women’s public sector employers would go bankrupt without the necessary pay equity funding.
>However, contrary to the ruling, Ontario decided in 1998 to end proxy pay equity funding after paying out $250 million in adjustments owing up to that date. Allegedly, the government knew this payment only brought these low-paid women’s wages to one-third of the pay equity amount they were entitled to, yet declared anyway that proxy pay equity funding was now the responsibility of employers, not the government, according to the suit.
“These landmark settlement funds mean that low-paid public sector women denied their pay equity adjustments because of discriminatory government funding practices will now finally start to receive the equitable wages required by the Pay Equity Act,” said Mary Cornish, lawyer for the Applicants in the CUPE et al v. Attorney-General (Ontario) et al case.
>The applicant unions are:
- The Canadian Union of Public Employees
- The Ontario Nurses’ Association
- The Ontario Public Service Employees Union
- The SEIU
- The United Steelworkers of America.
The individual applicants are a registered nurse, a health care aide, a child care worker and a developmental services worker.