Nfld. & Labrador

Pay equity motion gets unanimous approval on International Women's Day

MHAs in the House of Assembly voted to urge the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to push for pay equity.
MHA Gerry Rogers introduced a private member's bill asking government to start legislation regarding pay equity. (CBC)

MHAs in the House of Assembly lent unanimous support to an effort to bring pay equity to Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday.

A private member's motion which urged the provincial government to "start the process to enact pay equity legislation" was supported by all members from all parties in the House of Assembly.

Gerry Rogers, MHA for St. John's Centre, introduced the private member's motion.

It's a complex issue, Rogers told the St. John's Morning Show, but one the government should be willing to tackle head on, especially on International Women's Day.

"It's a human rights issue," she said.

"Are we satisfied as a community to base our income on the unfair payment of labour for women? Are we satisfied to do that? It's no longer acceptable."

After the vote, Labour Minister Gerry Byrne said new legislation is a significant and complex undertaking, and the government will work to determine what it can do to achieve results.

Rogers said in a statement that the passage of the motion was a "significant step to reducing the wage gap."

"I look forward to the day when pay equity legislation is introduced," she said.

Newfoundland and Labrador lags behind

According to Statistics Canada 2014 numbers, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador were the worst provinces in Canada when it came to a gender wage gap.

On average, women in Newfoundland and Labrador earned 66 per cent of what men made.

The gap is influenced by many factors, such as higher numbers of women occupying low-paying jobs and a lower number of women holding leadership positions within traditionally male-dominated fields.

In Canada, women earn an average of 72 cents for every dollar made by men.

The goal of pay equity is no strange concept to the province. In the 1980s, then-premier Brian Peckford committed to develop a pay equity plan to compensate underpaid female workers in public-sector jobs.

By 1991, the provincial government backed off, cancelling pay equity settlements for 20,000 health-care workers — a field in which 80 per cent of the workforce were women.

In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the government's decision to ditch the payments.

Two years later, the Danny Williams government voluntarily paid the $24 million that was taken off the table in 1991.

Now, Rogers hopes the government will stand up for pay equity by starting the legislation process.

With files from St. John's Morning Show