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Coalition Seeks Private Sector Pay Equity Legislation By 2020

Representatives of various organizations voice support of push for pay equity legislation for the private sector. Image: Inda Intiar/Huddle

MONCTON – On Tuesday, 14 organizations from various sectors in New Brunswick called on the provincial government to introduce pay equity legislation for the private sector by 2020. This is part of a campaign called Pay Equity Now.

The organizations under the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity include the United Way, New Brunswick Federation of Labour, the YWCA, the New Brunswick Nurses Union and CUPE, among others.

Frances LeBlanc, the coalition’s chair, said the group aims to see laws similar to those already adopted in the public sector be implemented in the private sector.

“We’ve had pay equity legislation in the public sector since 2009 here in New Brunswick and I think the experience has taught us a lot about what works and what doesn’t. So what we’re asking for is a law very similar to what we have in the public sector but with a few adjustments,” she said.

Pay equity is about the value of jobs traditionally and predominantly held by women. Adoption of pay equity measures, which aim to ensure equal pay for work of equal or comparable value, has been taking place on a voluntary basis in the private sector.

The coalition believes a law would provide guidance and make for more effective implementation of such measures. The measures include tools for evaluation of jobs and comparators of wages within various sectors.

“In terms of the receptivity of the private sector, we’re at a point where we know it’s inevitable, it’s just a matter of when. There are tools being developed to help the private sector in that transition. We want to make sure that the private sector has the appropriate tools and mechanisms so they can successfully implement pay equity,” LeBlanc said.

Frances LeBlanc, chair of the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity. Image: Inda Intiar/Huddle

LeBlanc says around 65 per cent of women in the province work in the private sector, within which there’s much discrepancy in pay depending on the industry, LeBlanc said. However, she said the gap is narrowing.

“It’s encouraging, but a law would ensure that further narrowing and ensure that there’s fair and equal pay for all,” she said.

The participating organizations said pay equity in the private sector is important to advance women’s rights, to ensure women’s financial security and autonomy, to decrease poverty, to ensure greater justice, and to recognize the value of women’s work.

John Gagnon, the first vice-president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, highlighted wage discrepancies for racialized women and those with disabilities. He said although the public sector has seen strides with pay equity, “we won’t have true justice until we have it in the private sector.”

YWCA Moncton’s Executive Director Jewell Mitchell said the private sector is “key” to unlocking the full potential of women’s economic empowerment. Consumers have the power to push businesses to change by spending according to their values and businesses can formalize the changes they commit to make, she said.

“And when [the businesses implement pay equity], I would encourage them to advertise it, talk about it, celebrate it. Let the public know what you’re doing to ensure New Brunswick is a good place to work for all its citizens. And this could put pressure on others to follow suit,” she said.

The announcement comes as political parties in the province are preparing for an election. LeBlanc said the NDP and Green Party have committed to including pay equity legislation in their platforms, while the Liberal and Conservative parties said they’re open to doing so.