(Vancouver) The BC Task Force on Pay Equity's report to the BC government, tabled in the legislature yesterday, repeats what researchers and women's groups have been saying for years: sex-based wage disparities are "a persistent and pressing problem."
Sylvia Fuller, the CCPA's public interest researcher, says that the task force report is correct in its conclusion that government must both set an example and devote resources when it comes to promoting women's economic equality. But the Centre cautions that while the task force report outlines some positive initiatives, there is little sign that the provincial government is willing to devote the resources necessary to make them work.
"What worries me," says Fuller, "is that government actions to date have actually undermined fair employment opportunities for women. Not only did the government cancel existing pay equity legislation, it went on to cut funding for child care and reduce the minimum wage for new workers. It has also embarked on a program of massive public sector job cuts, including plans (outlined in the leaked briefing document for the Minister of Health Services) to contract out health services jobs and cut wages. The public sector has traditionally paid more equitable wages to women workers, so these cuts will likely increase gender inequality in the workforce."
The report points out that, in order for reform to be effective in the private sector, the public sector needs to set an example. "Given the government's moves to date, relying on voluntary actions in the private sector seems rather optimistic," says Fuller. "If the government is serious about addressing women's economic inequality, it needs to both provide policies with teeth and lead by example."