Masse Calls for Funding to Women's Groups
November 27th, 2006 - 6:07pm
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to talk about the report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. My colleague was very eloquent in her speech in outlining the effects and connection to poverty in this situation.
It is very important to note that this is an issue of social justice, fairness and remuneration. It affects some of the most vulnerable in Canadian society. Having gone through the pay equity process in an employment situation, it grounded my belief that it can be done in a way that is very progressive and it can improve organizations.
The committee's report would be positive move for our country. We know jurisdictions in Ontario and Quebec have introduced these measures and there have been many successful stories. It addresses a long outstanding problem of women in Canadian society who have had to fight and claw their way up to the level of respect and support that should have been automatically present. It has been done in many different ways in the past, whether it be through my colleague's experience in politics, or the fight for the right to vote, or the current fight for pay equity.
We are not only talking about women getting to where they should already be. Some studies indicate that women have fallen further behind in this situation. Some reports note that women earn 71¢ for every $1 a man would earn, in the same profession and position. They are doing the same relative jobs, but they are not being remunerated at the same level.
A general analysis of what has happened shows that women have moved from 75¢ down to 71¢. That is not fair to the individuals who are affected by this. As collective of Canadian society, women are seen to be an available labour resource of less value in terms of remuneration, and this has been noted outside our boundaries.
Canada has received a number of notifications from different world organizations about the way we treat our vulnerable populations. This one is damaging not only internally, but it shames our country and it affects our credibility. We speak internationally about respect for women across the globe. We speak of them as being real contributors, as being equal in civil society.
We can improve upon this as a country. This would improve our international credibility, which is vacant right now. It would also provide domestic social justice to citizens who are so important to our society.
I will read the preamble of the report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. It is important for the recommendations to come out in today's debate, as well as the preface to why we are having this discussion. It states:
Despite the fact that pay equity has been the law in federal jurisdiction for over 25 years, women continue to earn less than men. Statistics show that, on average, women who have full-time jobs earn 71¢ for each dollar earned by a man, and that this discrimination is even more acute for women of colour, aboriginal women and women with disabilities. The objective of pay equity is to ensure that women and men who are performing jobs of equal value receive equal wages, even if their jobs are different.
My background consists of working for Community Living in Mississauga, as well as the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities. Currently, there is disproportionate unemployment as well as lower hours in wage earnings by persons with disabilities. I worked as a job developer in both of those great organizations for a number of years. We sought to provide a skilled workforce and assist in the training and development of individuals. However, we found there was a double whammy in the respect of women or persons with disabilities. They had even more difficulty entering the workforce because of some systemic discrimination. Sometimes it is not overt.
I have learned that sometimes people do not even realize the actions they take discriminate against others. What we did was work toward an implementation model to overcome those different types of analyses out there such as a person with a disability or a woman could not do the job as well as somebody who was able-bodied or a man.
It is important to note this because the problem is so significant with other groups and organizations. There are some great organizations in my community such as the new Canadian Centre of Excellence, the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County, the WWWIW and a series of others. They provide employment services for new Canadians and women who are often of different colour. They may have difficulty entering the workplace at a fair rate of pay, which we would expect in a general population. Compounding that is the fact that once they do find employment, they earn 71¢ to every $1 paid to men. There are a bunch of different barriers that are very difficult for these individuals to go through.
I spoke a bit about the fact that one of the organizations I had worked with had gone through this process. We saw it as a net benefit at the end of the day. Often this is viewed as big government coming in and raising a series of problems and measures, which organizations are unable to address sufficiently, like remuneration. There is no recourse for the organization to see itself through this path.
The process we went through required some skilful management on behalf of the employers and the labour organization. As well, it took some work with the different partners in government to bring forth a process that would work for everybody. Coming from that process, a number of different conflict situations were resolved. Once the organization had been given a mandate to fix what was wrong and once it understood those pretexts, it came up with a plan that everybody could work toward. Then we had to deliver. It was a good expectation though. It was stressful and there was pressure. At the same time, it was what was necessary to trigger the effective change that everybody desired at the end of the day.
The obstructionists in that process said that it would cost too much money and there would be too many problems. However, we found that the process lent us an opportunity to create committees and working discussion groups to look at the fiscal management of the organization, not only the short term but the medium and long terms. We also discussed how we could bring in an implementation model that would be successful as we delivered regular client services. The organization also had a mission statement to meet the mandate developed by the board of directors.
That context opened up all kinds of different opportunities. People developed relationships that continued. Later on these relationships were very important in dealing with other issues like health and safety, how a workplace could organize and be effective, working together. It also became a better place to work. People, who had not been paid the remuneration they justly deserved, were paid fairly. Also, as co-workers, we understood there was now a sense of balance in the organization. That was a healthy environment to work in.
Once we took off the film that covered the lens of a good organization, like the lifting of a fog, we knew we could move forward with better service delivery. Coming from a not for profit organization, for those who received pay equity, it was important not only just in the sense of social justice. Co-workers could pay their mortgages down. They could send their kids to school and have the proper clothing and different types of supports for their children that they previously did not have.
All that went back into our local economy. These people cannot take advantage of the loophole, of which the previous minister of finance continues to take advantage, where billions of dollars get funnelled outside the country to Barbados to avoid paying taxes. These people contributed that money back into our local economy. It was important for everything, including the construction trade because people were renovating their homes. People felt they could do things that were important. They were not investing in different accounts offshore so they could weasel out of paying taxes.
This is important to note. We are talking about bringing wages of people up to a proper level. There were extensive consultations in this process. My colleague, who spoke prior to me, talked about the years with the Liberals. They promised one thing and for 13 years they did not deliver. I know once in a while some members whine and cry about the NDP bringing them down. If we went back to that time and place, we did not even have the votes to prop them up, even if we wanted to that. They do not have their math right again, and we knew that from before. It is pretty pathetic to hear that about something that could have been delivered. I was here when this went through our parliamentary system.
I am ashamed to hear some of the language from the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and other regions in Canada and from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, such as:
In order to ensure the effectiveness of these measures, it is our intention to consult our key stakeholders to obtain their views on how to improve the measures that are being put in place to achieve positive pay equity results.
They wrote that to the committee as a response to basically say, “We're noting and filing all the work that you did”.
There were over 200 people and 60 written submissions in a process that has gone on for over several years. It is not like it was a big hidden secret in Ottawa. This has been out in the public format for many years. It has been debated, it has gone through a couple of committee reports and it has had massive consultation. Why can we not move forward?
I want to read the four recommendations. It is important for the people listening to today's debate to hear them, and I think they are reasonable.
The first recommendation is:
replacing the current complaint-based model of pay equity with a new stand-alone, proactive legislation which would frame pay equity as a fundamental human right;
That avoids the issue with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that we have right now. People have to jump through a whole series of loops and different types of barriers to get the proper rights that are supposed to be there.
The second recommendation is:
Expanding the coverage of pay equity legislation to cover all federally-regulated employees, including Parliament and federal contractors;
That should be obvious. We have to get our own house in order. I and my party support that completely. That could be the first thing, to be the role model to move that forward. There is no reason the government cannot do that.
The third recommendation is:
Extending pay equity protection to members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities and Aboriginal people...
This is important. Earlier I talked about the fact that we have a compounding factor, and that is the way people are treated in more difficult situations and the need to identify that specifically so we avoid future problems.
The fourth recommendation is:
Requiring all employers to develop and implement a pay equity plan.
Once again, I know that sounds difficult for some organizations to get their heads around, creating an action plan that will hold them to commitments and things that they do not want to necessarily do. However, this creates openness and dialogue in organizations and it can later be very helpful in other types of issues and challenges that they may face.
It is about building communication networks that are often taken for granted in a variety of different sectors. It is a reasonable thing to do. If the goal at the end of the day of is fairness and equity, then I think they will see a net benefit in the improvement of morale in the workplace. That is what happened in my organization. At the end of the day we all felt better for having gone through this. We were completing a sorry chapter in our organization's life that, for whatever reason, even beyond our own timeframe, had evolved through our system of employment in Canada. It was very positive to get that done.
I will conclude by noting that this is something which can be afforded to support in terms of organizations. A proper plan brought in responsibly can be done working with different individuals and groups in the workplace.
I come from a city that has a history of collective bargaining rights on behalf of the labour movement. We all want to keep our jobs and we all want to make sure that the environment is strong and sustainable and able to compete.
This is one of the productivity issues that could be an improvement for our country. Study after study indicate that morale and productivity improve in a workplace when people feel comfortable and have a sense that there is social justice and they are working together. This is something that has to be done by this country if we want to stand up strong and say that we treat all our citizens with fairness and equity.