Strong public services means strong women

Supporting public services in economic downturn a priority for women on IWD

Edmonton – Support for public services is essential in the battle to advance the rights of women, says Alberta’s largest labour organization.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the Alberta Federation of Labour noted that the majority of Alberta’s public sector workers – those who work in health care, education, in cities and towns, seniors’ care – are women.

“In a province where they’re already treated as unequal by so many employers, women’s modest wage gains in the public sector have helped us move toward a more equal society,” Alberta Federation of Labour Secretary Treasurer Siobhán Vipond said. “And in tough economic times, we need to continue supporting women by supporting our public services.”

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.

“We have to be aware that an attack on our public service is an attack on our women,” Vipond said. “When the right wing talks about health care, education, and public service workers, they are talking about women. And when they talk about public-sector cuts, they’re talking about an attack on women’s rights.”

Far right-wing front groups have been using the slowdown in Alberta’s energy sector as an excuse to wage a war 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.

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.

But the effect of public-sector cuts on women is about more than just wage gains.

“Women are more likely to have been forced into poverty, so an attack on social services is an attack on women. Women are more likely to be single parents, so an attack on the education system is an attack on women. Women are more likely to be on the receiving end of domestic violence, so an attack on funding for emergency services is an attack on women,” Vipond said.

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Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.218.4351 (cell) or via e-mail

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