Coalition pushes for private care pay equity

A provincial group is pushing for legislation that would give higher pay to women who work in the private care sectors.

A provincial group is pushing for legislation that would give higher pay to women who work in the private care sectors.

The New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity says the women who work in childcare, home care, group homes and transition houses make little more than minimum wage and often don't have benefits.

The provincial government set up pay equity programs a couple of years ago to assess what employees who provide care for others should be making.

The coalition is fighting to make sure the provincial government follows through by taking its "What does Pay Equity Mean To Me" tour across the province this winter to raise awareness about the issue, said Gail Taylor, chair of the coalition's Saint John branch.

It's time employees in those fields get the pay they deserve, she said, adding that it's an issue that should be important to everyone.

"We are all going to be needing at some point or other, child care, senior care, transition houses, group homes for vulnerable populations," Taylor said.

"The whole point of democracy is to ensure that those populations are well cared for. Paying the people who provide that care is extremely important for all of our welfare."

Taylor also noted the province's aging population.

"We are all going to need home care and that sector is really suffering. How can you retain workers and recruit new workers when they can't make ends meet?" she said.

Shelley Gauthier, who is currently a stay-at-home mom, said she can't afford to go back to work as a childcare worker.

"There is no way that I can put my child in daycare and actually go to work and be able to make anything. If I worked it out and I went back to my old job I would be working for $80 a week," she said.

Gauthier argues women who do such jobs deserve more money and respect.

"I am not just a glorified babysitter," she said.

"What I do is real work, it's hard work and I think that we should have the respect and I also think that the pay should also come with that as well."

Tories favoured legislation

In 2005, the provincial government gave the private sector five years to introduce pay equity on a voluntary basis.

In 2009, the New Brunswick Progressive Conservatives, who were in opposition at the time, said it might be time for legislation to impose pay equity on the private sector.

The Tories had previously favoured a voluntary approach for private employers when they were in office, but changed their position when the then-Liberal government  introduced legislation for pay equity in the public sector.

The Liberals had planned to set up a pay equity bureau that would provide oversight to ensure the policy, which was to come into force on April 1, 2010, was being enforced.

The NDP has said pay equity legislation would "lead to a modest increase" in the money coming into the provincial coffers because it would lead to more personal income tax revenue.

According to the NDP, 10 years after the Quebec pay equity law was introduced, 28 per cent of employees in female dominated job classes received raises and the average raise was 6.5 per cent. The average increase in wage costs to employers was a very affordable 1.5 per cent, according to the New Brunswick NDP.