Turning back the clock on women’s wages

HEU’s International Women’s Day ad chronicles impact of privatization on women

The B.C. government is turning back the clock on women’s wages — that’s the theme of a full-page HEU ad that ran March 8 and 9 in the Vancouver Sun, the Victoria Times-Colonist and the Vancouver Province to commemorate International Women’s Day 2003.

The ad outlined how the Campbell Liberals’ health privatization plans could put 5,000 health care workers — 90 per cent of them women — out of work in the next few months in what will be the biggest mass layoff of women workers in Canadian history.

And it drew attention to lucrative contracts with multinational corporations that pay wages at or near the minimum wage and push the value of women’s wages down to levels they haven’t seen since 1968.

Seventy-six prominent women and organizations from B.C. and across Canada endorsed the union’s message and a call on the provincial government to end its attack on women’s work and on the programs and services women need.

The attack on women and girls in British Columbia resulting from provincial government policies is so staggering that it’s caught the attention of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The UN CEDAW singled out B.C. for particular criticism after reviewing Canada’s progress on women’s equality. In its report released last week, the UN Committee noted that it “is concerned about a number of recent changes in British Columbia which have a disproportionately negative impact on women?”. Until now, the Committee has never criticized an individual province or territory.

The Committee was made aware of the erosion of women’s equality in B.C. because of the work of the BC CEDAW Group, a coalition of 12 leading women’s organizations of which HEU is a part through the Women’s Working Group of BC Health Coalition. The BC CEDAW Group presented a submission entitled “British Columbia Moves Backward on Women’s Equality” to the UN Committee in New York City in January.

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