Right-wing front groups step up the war on women’s wage equality

So-called ‘studies’ on public sector workers really an attack on women’s pay

Edmonton – On International Women’s Day, the Alberta Federation of Labour released a new study of women in Alberta’s public sector.

The study showed Alberta women in the public sector have earnings virtually identical to women in the private sector, putting a lie to the claim that Alberta’s public sector workers are overpaid.

Only low-wage occupations in Alberta showed a significant pay advantage in the public sector, and even then, only for women.

The data shows Alberta women are better off in the public sector because they benefit from pay equity, or equal pay for work of equal value.

The majority of public sector workers in Alberta are women. Attempts to roll back public sector wages are attempts to roll back women’s wages. Women in both the private and public sector, regardless of occupation category, earn less than men.

“What this study shows is that the struggles of unions and the women’s movement have paid off for Alberta women,” AFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Furlong says. “If women have the protection of a union and a public sector job, they have a shot at pay equity, and that’s good news for all Albertans.”

Alberta men earn significantly more in the private sector than they do in public sector jobs. The private sector advantage for men across all occupations was seven per cent, suggesting Alberta’s public service is underpaid relative to their private sector counterparts.

Alberta has the highest pay gap in Canada. Alberta women working full year and full time earn a median 68 per cent of what men earn.The pay gap is reduced for women in unions – to about 85 per cent of what men earn.

The latest AFL analysis of women’s wages in the public and private sectors is the first of a series of studies on wages in Alberta.

The AFL’s research is particularly important in light of the all-out war that right-wing front groups have been waging against the public sector in Alberta. Groups such as the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and the University of Calgary School of Public Policy have all stepped up their attempts to undermine Alberta’s health care, education, and social services sectors, open up these services to privatization, and undermine wage gains economy-wide.

“The Fraser Institute, the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, and the old boys club over at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy would like to rewind us back to the 1950s before women started joining unions and winning victories for equal pay,” Furlong says.

Furlong notes that women in the private sector who are not unionized should look into joining a union if they want to work toward equal pay for women.

“If right-wing lobbyists had their way, we’d go back to a time when women did comparable work to men but earned significantly less,” Furlong says. “All of these Tea-Party-style groups are targeting women’s paycheques. This International Women’s Day, the Alberta labour movement is saying ‘enough is enough.’ We’re proud of women have struggled for and won and enough is enough.”

AFL Backgrounder:  Study: Attacks on Public Sector Workers Target Women’s Wages



Nancy Furlong, AFL Secretary Treasurer at 780-720-8945 (cell) or via email nfurlong@afl.org.

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