Landmark decision

Dear editor:
On July 29, 1998, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal handed down its long awaited decision in regards to the pay-equity dispute between the members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), and the federal government. I would like to comment on several issues involved in this landmark decision.
This ruling addresses the issue of valuing work which has been performed for years predominately by women in the Public Service. PSAC’s position is that the women of the occupational groups involved have not been judged equitably to these four factors: skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions. I would like to point out that although this decision is geared to fix past injustices for the women of the union, all men who were employed in the categories involved are also considered undervalued and therefore will receive pay adjustments.
Up until 1989, the federal government along with the PSAC, jointly were participating in a study to address the inequity within the Public Service Classification System. However, when the initial figures were released as to the cost (in 1989), the federal government pulled out of the discussion and imposed its own judgment. In the decision handed down by the Tribunal, the government was criticized at length for utilizing an antiquated classification system, which does not appropriately compensate for the value of work performed. The union has been applying pressure on the government to change its method of valuing all government employees.
There appears to be a public misconception that public servants are all highly paid; this simply is not true. The median salary for the Clerical/Regulatory Group which is the largest group, is $30,000 per annum, however, one must be reminded that many groups fall far below this figure with some groups averaging only $19,000 yearly. Many of these public servants have been employed in excess of 20 years, all of whom have not received any raises for seven years. Isn’t it interesting that the standing government has recently seen fit to award itself a pay raise in excess of 15% and also increased their perks?
Yes, the outstanding bill to the members of the PSAC potentially is in the billions, but one must remember that if the government had not stalled, then that bill would not be what it is today. I would also like to point out that the government of the day, both Liberal and Tories, have not adhered to their own legislation, the Canadian Human Rights Legislation, which deals with the issues of pay equity (section 11 of the Act), which was passed into law March 1, 1978. One wonders how government can avoid upholding its own law and cause its workers to go to such extraordinary lengths to achieve equitable value for work performed until 21 years after legislation passed.
We understand the general public’s concern that the bill for this judgment could exceed billions of dollars. However, in Paul Martin’s 1995 Budget Speech, it was stated that monies had been set aside to pay out the pay equity payments. Where are these monies now?
The Public Service Alliance members can take pride in the jobs they perform. Unfortunately, up until July 29, many, if not all, have not been valued by the government they work for. Although this decision will not apply to everyone within the public service due to the fact that when this study was initiated, only certain groups were predominated by women, it will to some extent remedy past inequities and establish standards by which all groups will herein be judged.
Regionally, this decision could impact between 800-900 past, and present employees, many who receive minimal pensions, partly due to government policy, and its failure to adequately value their work.
PSAC does not want, nor does it expect anything other than what it is owed. For years we have known that we were right in pursuing our struggle. How we can feel vindicated that the Tribunal has proven us right.
Our only request now is for the government not to further delay, but pay what is rightfully ours. For each day that the government delays, will ultimately cost the Canadian Taxpayer and the members of the PSAC additional burden.
Karen Specht
Thunder Bay, Ont.