pay Equity in Quebec
BY LESLEY LEE
Although the Quebec Charter of Human Rights has provided for equal pay for work of equal value since 1976 (long before its inclusion in the federal charter or in other provincial charters), very little progress has been made in correcting the wage disparities resulting from the underevaluation of women's work. No provincial law concerning pay equity has been adopted nor can one be predicted for the near future. Indeed, the Bourassa government maintains that no wage discrimination exists in the Quebec public sector.
That position has been seriously challenged by the CSN, the Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux (Confédération of National Trade Unions), whose 120,000 public sector employees have been involved in pay equity negotiations since August 1988. After two attempts (1983 and 1986) to negotiate pay equity for a limited number of job classifications whose pay scales were in flagrant contradiction to the Charter of Human Rights, the CSN won an important agreement.
The government initially offered (in 1986) to work with unions on joint committees mandated to "study salary scales" in general and to submit their conclusions to the negotiating parties. The CSN viewed these proposed committees as another government tactic to stall pay equity discussion for a few more years and refused to collaborate. They won instead the right to begin negotiations solely on the issue of pay equity six months prior to the expiration in 1989 of the public sector collective agreement.