TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Aug. 25, 2016) - The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) is pleased to see the Steering Committee recommendations for closing the gender wage gap, combined with the immediate steps that will be taken by government. These recommendations must now go beyond examination and evaluation of the gender wage gap across sectors to developing concrete policies and programs.
To earn the same amount men do in one year, women need to work almost four months longer. Change has been slow - in 24 years, the gender wage gap has shrunk only 11.3 per cent.
"Closing the gender wage gap must be a human rights priority for this government," said OFL President Chris Buckley. "We are encouraged to see these first steps that will be taken, but they must be paired with concrete action on the other recommendations."
The lack of access to childcare is an identified barrier to women entering the workforce. The OFL is heartened to see that government has announced it will build affordable, accessible, and high-quality childcare programs, and has appointed a new Associate Minister of Education (Early Years and Childcare). The OFL reiterates its call that any services developed under this new mandate must be publicly-funded and delivered in order to guarantee higher quality and more accessibility for parents, as well as unionization for childcare employees.
The government's announcement that it will provide employers with resources on anti-discrimination and other education products is welcome, but could still leave workers with the responsibility for ensuring that they are treated equitably at work and combatting deeply ingrained systemic sexism.
"Our government needs to create labour and employment standards that make fair treatment for workers of all genders a starting point, not a finish line," said Buckley.
The OFL views the new requirement of gender-based analysis in the government policy process as a positive step and encourages the government to integrate a gender-based analysis with all government processes, particularly the annual budget and the ongoing Changing Workplaces Review, in order to create meaningful change for Ontario women.
Unions have been at the forefront of the fight for equal pay, and union representation for workers has been proven to minimize the wage gap. To address the wage gap effectively, the Ontario government needs policies and standards that make it easier for workers to join and keep a union, Buckley said.
"Women in the workforce are ghettoized into jobs that pay less than what are considered men's jobs," said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Patty Coates. "We see even greater hardship, disadvantage and economic discrimination in the labour market for women that are Aboriginal, racialized, have disabilities, are in a same-sex partnership, lack economic resources and opportunity, are single parents or are recent immigrants to our country or our province."
"These initial actions by government are a hopeful indicator, but we are fully expecting greater action in the coming months that would seriously tackle the gendered economic disparity holding our province back," said Coates.
The upcoming Changing Workplaces Review offers the government a chance to Make It Fair by going beyond the pay equity act to ensure women are able to get and keep well-paid jobs. The OFL's www.MakeItFair.ca campaign takes on issues of inequality in the workforce, and coincides with the province's "Changing Workplaces Review." The campaign gives voice to unions' demands for across-the-board changes to the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act that would improve standards for every worker and make it easier for them to join a union.
The OFL represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow @OFLabour on Facebook and Twitter.
The OFL's January 2016 submission on the Ontario Gender Wage Gap Strategy endorsed the Equal Pay Coalition's 12-step conceptual framework, and highlighted four particular steps to eliminate the wage gap and support the drive to 2025:
1. Treat closing the gap as a human rights priority, and a regulatory labour standard;
2. Fund, enforce, and expand Pay Equity and Employment Equity Law and Policy;
3. Make it easier for women to join unions by supporting meaningful legislative change to the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act; and,
4. Develop action plans and a jobs strategy that promotes women's meaningful participation in the workforce - particularly in non-traditional fields of employment and improve access to education and training, childcare, and other services so women can balance work and family responsibilities.
For more information: http://ofl.ca/index.php/genderwagegap2016/