For every dollar a man in Ontario makes in a year, a woman makes 69 cents. That’s what Statistics Canada says.
It’s a pretty surprising number. This is 2015, not 1915. You would think we’d be doing better by now.
Unfortunately, we’re not. That’s why the Equal Pay Coalition is marking April 20 as Equal Pay Day across the province.
There are all kinds of reasons for the pay gap between women and men. On a yearly basis, women work fewer hours, and are more likely than men to be doing unpaid work taking care of family members. But even on an hourly basis, the gap is still there, and it’s still significant. In March 2015, the average Ontario man earned $3.48 an hour more than the average woman. That’s an anatomical premium of 15 per cent.
So what are we doing about it?
Well, as trade unionists, quite a bit. The average unionized woman earns more than the average non-union man. Especially in the public sector, unions in Ontario have done well in collective bargaining. We’ve also navigated the complexities of the Pay Equity Act to bring women’s pay up.
It’s not enough. If we really want to shrink the pay gap between women and men, government has to make an effort.
Last fall, Premier Kathleen Wynne tapped two of her cabinet ministers to tackle the problem. “You will support the Minister of Labour in the development of a wage gap strategy,” Wynne told Women’s Minister Tracy MacCharles.
Yet when the Ministry of Labour launched a review of labour laws and employment standards last month, the issue of the gender wage gap was explicitly excluded from the review.
In the 10 months since she was elected, Kathleen Wynne has done exactly one thing about the wage gap: she has made it worse by attacking the wages of public employees, the large majority of whom are female.
Other than that, she’s been silent.
There are lots of things government can do to shrink the pay gap, and shrink it fast, as I’ve mentioned before. But what won’t work is doing nothing.
Equal Pay Day is important. But what we really need are equal paydays.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union