Pay equity demonstration in Montreal, May 27, 1989
Pay equity demonstration in Montreal, May 27, 1989

A second factor which led to the CSN's decline of the government's committees was the government's refusal to acknowledge the specific problems of women in the committee mandates. The proposed committees were to review pay scales in general, whereas the CSN was interested specifically in those pay scales for female job titles (those with 70% or more women). Convinced already of pay discrimination, they were not interested in dispersing their energies and were impatient for some immediate corrections to women's salaries.

As soon as the 1986 collective agreement was signed the CSN poured energies and resources into a vast study of female job titles using questionnaires, interviews and on-the-job observations in preparation for the pay equity negotiations. Eighty-two jobs titles out of a total of some 330 in the public sector were studied in depth. Preliminary results were submitted to union members, discussed, corrected and eventually adopted at the local and federal levels.

From the beginning the union central had one aim: that of correcting salary discrimination towards women. This objective directed the analysis and approach to the project at every stage. In order to establish a common analysis grid for men's and women's jobs, the four factors generally recognized in other equity legislation were retained. These are: qualifications (education, previous experience, hiring prerequisites); aptitudes and requirements (qualities, abilities, specific cognitive, psychological, motor and sensory demands); responsibilities (impact and level of autonomy); and working conditions (physical or psychological constraints or consequences). Using these four categories the team identified equivalent male jobs and proposed pay scales for women's job titles which would bring them up to the male level. Adjustments were proposed for 80 female job titles out of the 82 studied.

For example, the research team compared clerical staff (90% women) earning a base salary of $9.73j/hour with service and craft workers (predominantly men) who had a starting salary of $10.72/hour. Over 24,000 women in female job categories earn less than $10.72/hour. Secretaries, family aides (auxiliaires familiales), assistant technicians and beneficiary attendants (préposées aux bénéficiaires) must work five years before they earn more than the basic male service worker salary.

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