Labour activists call for action on women’s rights

AFL urges comprehensive plan at event to commemorate 23rd anniversary of tragedy

Edmonton - Alberta needs to address pay gap for women, according to AFL president Gil McGowan.

On Sunday, Dec. 2, at the annual Alberta Federation of Labour Women’s Committee December 6 Commemorative Brunch, McGowan said that to tackle the problem of violence against women, we need to address economic disparity between the genders.

“Violence against women can be seen as a manifestation of inequality between women and men. The murder of 14 women at Montreal’s École Polytechnique was about power and control,” McGowan said. “Canadians need to understand that inequality still exists. Sometimes we like to think that women’s equality has been achieved, but that assumption is belied by the facts.”

The majority of workers earning minimum wage are women, and women in Canada earn just 72 per cent as much as men do. At the same time, 83 per cent of all police-reported domestic assaults are against women. On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence.

“Women who are at an economic disadvantage have fewer resources to get away from a bad situation. Decreased wages and diminished opportunities don’t just contribute to violence, they are themselves a form of economic violence against women,” McGowan said, noting that Alberta in particular is not doing enough to curb any of these problems.

“Alberta is the only jurisdiction in Canada without a Minister responsible for the status of women or an advisory council on the status of women. Unsurprisingly, we are the most unequal province in Canada on a number of very important indicators.”

McGowan noted that Alberta women working in a non-union workplace earn just 70 per cent as much as men in comparable positions, while women who belong to a union earn 89 per cent as much as men in comparable positions.

“Women do better when they are unionized. Narrowing the gap between men and women is one of the great accomplishments of our movement,” McGowan said. “But the trouble is so few people in Alberta have a union.”

McGowan also called on the federal government to introduce a comprehensive national action plan to end violence against women in Canada, and to launch a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

“While Aboriginal women make up only 3 per cent of Canada’s female population, they make up 10 per cent of all murdered women,” McGowan said. “It’s time that the federal government took this issue seriously, and launched an inquiry.”



Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email

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