Rectifying the Pay Equity Act

Rectifying the Pay Equity Act

On February 12, the government introduced a bill to amend the Pay Equity Act. It was forced to do so after a federal Supreme Court ruling quashed certain amendments to the act that were introduced in 2009, including those that removed any possibility of retroactive compensation in cases of discrimination.

Right from the outset, the APTS contested this erosion of women’s right to have pay equity applied without any discontinuity. It was imperative to have retroactive pay adjustments apply from the time the discrimination occurred, not from the time the government’s five-year audit was conducted. Over the years, the APTS has argued this point many times before the courts: first in Québec’s Court of Appeal, then in Superior Court, and finally in the highest court of the land. The federal Supreme Court ruling put an end to any further appeal by the Québec government and forced it to amend the legislation by May 10, 2019.

As the final act in this saga, Bill 10 provides for compensation payments to thousands of women workers, totalling more than $500 million. Labour minister Jean Boulet, the bill’s author, believes that this will have a major impact in the health and social services and education sectors. That will be a most welcome outcome after so many years of union efforts.

Employers will also be forced to review the way they post the results of pay equity audits. And the CNESST (Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail), for its part, will have to review its process for handling complaints and provide more support to women workers.

The APTS vigorously stressed the importance of retroactive compensation to eliminate any discrimination, in hearings held by the Committee on Labour and the Economy on February 26.1

The point is to ensure that if changes arise in the work that create pay gaps between predominantly female job classes and predominantly male job classes, these pay gaps will count as such from the time they occur, and be duly compensated.

At the time the bill was tabled, the APTS president announced our intention “… to assert our point of view in the upcoming stages of the parliamentary process and offer our expertise.” That’s exactly what we’ve done.

1 To see the presentation given by the APTS in the parliamentary committee

Lead photo: On February 26, 2019, before the parliamentary committee – Carolle Dubé, APTS president; Robert Comeau, political officer; Julie Daigneault, pay equity and salary relativity co-ordinator; and Marie-Josée Leroux, research officer.

by Chantal Mantha | photos Xavier Dachez | February 26, 2019