Each October 18, Canada celebrates Persons Day. This day marks the day that some women were declared persons under the constitution gaining the right to stand for or be appointed to public office including the Senate of Canada.
In the 91 years since that ruling, we see that women’s equality continues to be uneven – both in comparison to men and within women as a group. During the pandemic this fact has been increasingly highlighted.
Women in Canada face more exposure, higher death rate, and poorer labour conditions than men since the pandemic was declared. When we examine which women are most acutely affected, Black, Indigenous and women of colour are overrepresented. While some women have achieved some measure of equality, this is not true for women experiencing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
In the shadow of these new and longstanding inequities, Canada’s federal and provincial governments still resist the change that is necessary in order to make things better.
The anniversary of the Final Report of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry passed without concrete action. The groundswell of support for Black Lives Matter has resulted in only a minority of governments taking concrete action including pledges to collect race-based data. A famous author’s attack on the lives and humanity of transwomen has gained traction in many corners. And a recent DAWN Canada report underscores that women and girls with disabilities face multiple barriers to accessing employment, health services, sexual and reproductive rights, and are also more at risk of experiencing gender-based violence.
Unifor leaders and members continue to mobilize for social justice throughout this pandemic. With our #BuildBackBetter campaign, we push for structural changes to address inequality, including gender inequality. Campaigns in our health care and retail sectors highlight how racialized and gendered these sectors are, and those effects on workers. Unifor pushes governments and employers to move beyond empty gestures of thanks and instead move toward living wages, dignity and decent working conditions. The temporary measures of pandemic pay must be made permanent for the front line workers whose value should have been recognized all along.
On Persons Day, when elections are taking place in two of our provinces, the importance of electing progressive governments is paramount. We mark the anniversary of the first women being able to stand for office and we highlight that we have much more to do to ensure diversity within decision-making positions. Critical issues such as reproductive rights, child care programs, pay equity and paid domestic violence leave risk being rolled back or never realized through the rise of conservative governments.
To truly acknowledge women as persons, structural changes that seek to disassemble the barriers built by racism, sexism and more need to be made. Activism, strengthening our unions, and electing progressive governments are key to this goal.
October 15, 2020
ST. JOHN’S–In the eighth week of escalating strike action, Dominion workers have begun picketing at the Loblaw Distribution Centre in St. John’s.
“These frontline grocery workers have been on the picket line for almost two months. In that time Loblaw Co. has continued to rake in increased profits across the country due to COVID-19 but the company has refused to improve its failed offer to Dominion workers by one red cent,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “It’s time for Loblaw to stop disrespecting their employees and to come back to the negotiating table for a serious discussion.”
The workers began action at 9 a.m. this morning at the Distribution Centre at 35 Clyde Ave. Donovan Industrial Park, which supplies Loblaw-owned properties across Newfoundland including No Frills, Bidgood Fresh Mart, Cash and Carry St. John’s, Independent grocers and Shoppers Drug Mart.
The workers have been on strike since August 22, 2020 after overwhelmingly rejecting Loblaw’s offer of a $1 wage increase over three years. More than half of the workers earn the provincial minimum wage of $12.15, despite serving their communities during COVID-19.
“The workers are asking for a living wage but ironically it seems that Loblaw is looking to starve out its own employees,” said Unifor 597 President Carolyn Wrice. “The only way this ends is through fair bargaining.”
Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector and represents 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.
Journalists at PostMedia’s flagship newspaper, the National Post, have voted to join Unifor.
“We are truly honoured to welcome the journalists of the National Post to the Unifor family,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.
The vote to join Unifor was held October 8 and 9 by online voting. In all, about 40 reporters, editors and other staff voted to join Unifor.
Work will now begin on a first contract for staff at the National Post. Top issues at the paper have been consistency in pay rates and job security.
“These journalists recognize that fairness comes when they stand together,” Unifor Organizing Director Kellie Scanlan said.
With the National Post, Unifor now represents the journalists at each of Canada’s largest newspapers, including the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and several PostMedia papers across Canada, including the Windsor Star, the London Free Press, Vancouver Sun and the Province, as well at the independent Winnipeg Press.
Unifor represents more than 12,000 media workers across Canada in print and broadcast, including workers at CTV, Global, TVO and several specialty channels and Bell Media.
Last week, the Ontario Court of Appeal heard arguments in a precedent-setting case about the method employers must use to maintain pay equity for their predominantly female workforce.
“The unanimous ruling from the judicial review was clear that employers in nursing homes must adopt pay equity methods for these hard working COVID heroes,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “We should not be having this debate, women must be paid the same as men and employers must use every resource they have to achieve pay equity. It’s as simple as that.”
The dispute arises from a group of nursing homes, collectively referred to as the “Participating Nursing Homes.” The case was brought by the ONA and SEIU, each of whom alleged that the Participating Nursing Homes have failed to maintain pay equity after it was initially achieved in 2005. Unifor, together with CUPE, supported the Equal Pay Coalition’s intervention in the case in support of the unions.
The unions allege that this has resulted in a gender-based wage gap for their members that they claim must be redressed using the Proxy method, which would allow them to compare their wages with similarly valuable positions in external workplaces who have already achieved pay equity using male comparator data.
The crux of the dispute is whether, in order to maintain pay equity, the Participating Nursing Homes must “borrow” comparator data for similar positions from the Municipal Homes for the Aged that have already achieved pay equity, just as they did when pay equity was first achieved.
Throughout this case, the Participating Nursing Homes have adamantly denied that they must use comparators external to their businesses to maintain pay equity. Initially, the homes also denied that they had any obligation to maintain pay equity at all.
The unions have argued that access to male wage data is essential to maintain pay equity and that it would be a violation of the s. 15 Charter right to equality if the workers in these female job classes were denied the opportunity to compare their wages to the wages of men.
This case was first heard by the Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal, who ruled against the unions. That decision was overturned by the Ontario Divisional Court on appeal. Now the Court of Appeal must decide whether to uphold the Divisional Court’s Decision. Unifor will provide further updates when the Court of Appeal releases its decision.