Pay equity law positive, says HEU

News release

Union's support based on its struggle against wage discrimination

The Hospital Employees' Union says it strongly supports legislation introduced today in Victoria to enshrine pay equity into law along with the fundamental principle that women and men should be paid the same for work of equal value.

"This is a positive step for women that we salute the NDP for taking, " says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt, "It's also one that our members, who waged a successful decades-long struggle of their own against pay cheque sexism, can take pride in."

The new legislation will amend the Human Rights Code to make it illegal for private and public sector employers to compensate women and men differently for work of equal value. And Allnutt says that health care—where close to 90 per cent of care services are provided by women—is a concrete example of a profession where, historically, wage rates were under valued precisely because it is female-dominated.

“Our own struggle to eliminate wage discrimination in health care has been a long and difficult one," says Allnutt, "in which it took nearly 20 years of dogged determination by our members before health employers acknowledged that gender-based wage discrimination in health care existed.

"The law means that thousands of women who now play important working roles in our economy and public services won't face the same struggle or the same long wait to have discrimination recognized and dealt with. Our members can be proud that their efforts to combat wage discrimination helped pave the way for the legislation introduced today," he said.

In 1992, HEU won an historic pay equity settlement with health employers and the NDP government that allocated one per cent of payroll annually for equity adjustments to reduce the wage gaps identified in a comprehensive classification of jobs and job values. The adjustments will continue for another decade before wage discrimination is finally eliminated. Close to 90 per cent of HEU's 46,000 members are female, making it the largest union of women in B.C.