Alberta women falling behind, say union leaders: Labour calls for government action to end gender inequality
"Alberta's women continue to suffer inequality, especially in the workplace," says Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour, which represents 140,000 workers.
"This unfairness is felt at all levels of society. On average, Alberta women earn 72 cents for every dollar a man earns. However, Alberta women with university degrees earn only 67 per cent of the wages earned by men with similar degrees. Women managers in Alberta earn 86 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn," says Furlong.
"Meanwhile, those who are most vulnerable also suffer. While most Albertans saw their incomes rise between 1989 and 2008, families headed by female lone parents have seen a drop in incomes, leaving the province with the highest lone-parent poverty rate in Canada - 24 per cent here compared with 16 per cent for Canada as a whole," she says.
A total of 27 union leaders today lobbied more than a dozen MLAs from the government - including three cabinet ministers - and from opposition parties and called for the province to name a minister responsible for the Status of Women.
"The Alberta government is lagging other provinces in acting to address gender inequality. Naming a minister responsible for the Status of Women will help ensure that Alberta women don't fall any further behind. It will provide much-needed focus on an issue important to all Albertans."
Within Canada, Alberta is the only jurisdiction that does not give women an institutional voice. Across the country, there are official advisory councils to government on the status of women, women's secretariats that form part of larger government ministries and, in select jurisdictions, entire ministerial portfolios dedicated to the status of women.
"Women's voices must be heard if this unfair treatment to be ended. All other jurisdictions in Canada give women an official avenue to raise their concerns with government. A Minister for the Status of Women would be able to analyze what happens in other regions to find which policies best contribute to women's equality," says Furlong.
"Alberta used to be at the forefront of the fight for equality, led by the Famous Five and their campaign to have women declared ‘persons' under the law. It is time for Alberta to take back that leadership role," she says.
Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-720-8945 (cell)
Government urged to act now on minimum wage and ease poverty: Two-year delay in raising the level of pay for lowest earners “inexcusable,” says AFL
"Alberta's minimum wage has been stuck at $8.80 per hour since April 2009," says Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour, the province's largest labour organization, representing 140,000 workers.
"More than a year ago, the government needlessly cancelled a scheduled increase to the minimum-wage level. That was unacceptable. Last fall, the Alberta Legislature Standing Committee on the Economy recommended an immediate increase to $9.05 per hour. The Minister of Employment and Immigration has ignored that recommendation. That is inexcusable."
McGowan called for the government to immediately adopt the $9.05 minimum-wage level and to restore annual increases to the minimum wage, based on the average weekly earnings index. He also called for the government to make a one-time bump to the minimum wage to $12.20 as the province's economy stabilizes, so low-income earners can make a living wage.
"We believe that anyone who works full time, full year in our province should earn a wage that allows them to stay out of poverty. The current minimum wage doesn't do that. There must also be a system that guarantees regular increases to prevent the minimum level from being eroded by inflation over the years," says McGowan.
The current minimum wage leaves a full-time worker at an income of $4,000 per year below the Low-Income Cut-off, otherwise known as the poverty line. With economists predicting food process will rise up to 15 per cent next year, things are going to get even worse for those earning low wages.
"Despite its wealth, Alberta has the second lowest minimum wage in Canada," says McGowan. "Increasing minimum-wage levels will not cost jobs. In fact, a five-year analysis of minimum-wage increases in Alberta in shows that employment actually increased in those occupations most likely to pay minimum wage, including retail sales, cashiers and clerks, food and beverage service and travel and accommodation retail services," he says.
"Last week, the world marked International Women's Day. Because women are disproportionately paid lower wages, it would be timely to make an immediate increase to minimum-wage levels. This simple step will ease poverty, including child poverty. Alberta can afford to do better and must do better," says McGowan.
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Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour @ 780-218-9888 (cell)
It's a move they say is long overdue. The current minimum wage in Alberta is $8.80, the second lowest in Canada, and the AFL's Gil McGowan says that means that full-time wage earners in our province, are actually below the poverty line.
"Anyone working that amount of time should earn a wage that allows them to live above the poverty line," McGowan says. "And in Alberta you'd have to earn about $12 an hour to do that. We feel very strongly that a minimum wage, should actually be a living wage."
McGowan says at the very least, the minimum wage should be increased by $0.25, to $9.05. That's a problem, according to Jay Fisher with Alberta Employment and Immigration. He says it's tricky managing the minimum wage.
"Striking a balance is the key here, you can't jump a minimum wage too far or it hurts business' ability to compete," explains Fisher. "And of course on the other hand you have to keep minimum wage as an attractive number to bring people into these entry level jobs."
Fisher says minister Thomas Lukaszuk is looking into a minimum wage increase, but can't say when we can expect an announcement.
inews880am, Tues Mar 15 2011
Alberta's earnings gap between women and men largest in Canada: Women participating in the workforce at higher rates than ever; inequality persists
Edmonton - As women's workforce participation in Alberta has increased, so too has earnings inequality, according to the Alberta Federation of Labour.
While today's Statistics Canada report on Women and Work showed women's participation in the labour force increased substantially over the past three decades, it also remains true that women who work full-year, full-time earn just 66 per cent of what men earn. The Canadian average earnings gap is 72 per cent.
The Statistics Canada study found that more women than ever are working in finance and business, but the earnings gap in Alberta is astounding, says Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
Statistics Canada shows dramatic differences in average yearly earnings in various occupations, such as:
• Alberta men in management occupations earned an average of $101,000 in 2008 - for women, the average earnings in management were $55,500;
• Alberta men in business, finance, and administrative occupations earned an average of $68,500 in 2008 - for women, the average earnings in business, finance, and administration were $40,300.
Earnings data are critical to understanding women's advances in the workforce, given that so many women are employed in part-time, precarious, contract, and low-wage work with few benefits or pension. Today's Statistics Canada release showed that 70% of the Canadian part-time workforce is female.
Part of the explanation for so much part-time work lies in Alberta's - and Canada's - dismal early learning and child care policies.
Alberta allocates the lowest number of dollars per child in regulated child care, and has some of the fewest regulated child -care spaces in Canada. On the international scene, Canada scarcely fares better. A recent OECD study found Canada tied with Turkey and Mexico - among the bottom of the entire industrialized world - in spending on family benefits.
The silver lining for women in Canada, during the recession, was the relative stability of public-sector jobs.
"We see a lower earnings gap - and we saw fewer layoffs during the recession - in public-sector jobs in health and education," adds Furlong.
"This is because all Canadian women experience a significant union advantage when they work in the public sector. The union advantage is about more than wages - it is about a better work-life balance, pay equity, and other workplace gains that women have won through unionization," concludes Furlong.
Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer, Alberta Federation of Labour - 780-483-3021; cell 780-720-8945
McKesson Canada workers hit the picket lines in Edmonton
- 213 members of UFCW 401 at McKesson Canada in Edmonton are on strike, with the issues including wage parity with employees in Calgary and increases to benefits that have not changed in five years and have been eroded by inflation. Instead, management is seeking concessions. For more information ...
Alberta's jobs crisis continues
- While Canada has recently seen an increase in full-time employment, Alberta has bucked the trend and has been shedding full-time jobs - 9,600 of them between May and June 2010. Instead of acting to improve the situation, the Alberta government has cut job-training programs, mostly aimed at helping youth and aboriginal workers. Meanwhile, social assistance caseloads have soared by 50 per cent. Read more at ...
- The Alberta government revenue system is broken, as witnessed by wildly fluctuating revenue predictions and the resulting intense pressure on public services including health care and education. It's time for a grown-up conversation about how to fix the system and ensure we have the funds to pay for vital public services. For "Which Way Will We Pay?" and more information ...
Minimum wage increases do not lead to job losses
- New Alberta Federation of Labour research shows employment in service industries actually grows after minimum wages increases, said AFL president Gil McGowan in his presentation to a government panel reviewing Alberta's minimum wage. For more, read ...
Join the rally to support workers at Calgary Stampede July 13!
Park Operations workers at the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede are seeking a first contract and need your help. Join them in a rally near the Stampede ground Tuesday, July 13. For details ...
July 13, 2010 - IAMAW Rally, Calgary
Time: 9:00 a.m. - gather to hand out flyer
11:00 a.m. - rally begins
Location: Calgary Stampede Exhibition grounds, Southern LRT exit ramp, Erlton Station, 25th Avenue and Macleod Trail South
July 31, 2010 - CUPW Edmonton Sandtrap Open (email@example.com)
August 9 to 13, 2010 - AFL Kids' Camp
August 29, 2010 - Big Splash Open Golf Tournament
September 6, 2010 - Edmonton District & Labour Council Labour Day Barbeque
Did you know ...
The Alberta government has cut funding to the following job-training programs:
- Youth Connections 26.59%
- Career Development Services 12.68%
- Basic Skills/Academic Upgrading 16.55%
- Summer Temporary Employment 22.48%
- Workforce Partnerships 34.36%
- Aboriginal Development Partnerships 7.39%
Minimum Wage Increases Do Not Lead to Job Loss: AFL analysis shows service industry employment has increased after minimum wage adjustments
"Employers in the service sector have convinced the current Employment and Immigration Minister that the sky will fall if the minimum wage is given even a modest boost. But the evidence from right here in Alberta shows that increasing the minimum is something that is all up side and no down side," says McGowan. "There is much to be gained and nothing to be feared."
The Alberta Federation of Labour conducted a five-year analysis of the occupations most likely to pay minimum or low wages - retail sales, cashiers and clerks, food and beverage service, and travel and accommodation retail services.
The AFL examined the number of Albertans employed in these sectors after increases in the minimum wage. Since 2005, Alberta has made four upward adjustments to the minimum wage and every time, the number of Albertans working in retail sales, food and beverage service, and travel/accommodation increased after the minimum wage went up.
- In 2005, the minimum wage was boosted from $5.90 to $7.00 per hour. One year after the increase, there were 26,700 more Albertans working in the food and beverage, service, and travel/accommodation industries.
- In September 2007, the Alberta government boosted the minimum wage from $7.00 to $8.00 per hour. In April 2008, they increased it again to $8.40 per hour. In the 8-month interval between increases to the minimum wage - and just as the global credit crisis was beginning to shake business and consumer confidence - the number of Albertans working in the food and beverage, retail, and travel/accommodation industries grew from a total of 342,800 employees to 363,300.
- The minimum wage went from $8.40 to $8.80 in April 2009. There were 380,100 Albertans working in service industries in April 2009. There are currently 399,500 Albertans working in service industries. At the same time, Alberta unemployment increased from 6% in April 2009 to 7.4% in May 2010.
"When Minister Lukaszuk chose to freeze the minimum wage, he justified the decision by claiming that tying the minimum wage to the average weekly earnings index costs jobs. Our research shows these arguments aren't based on evidence, but are simply the product of some employer groups' imaginations," said McGowan.
"If hardship is claimed, it should be accompanied by proof. But there is no credible, publicly available evidence to show that predictable and reasonable increases to the minimum wage lead to job losses," concludes McGowan.
McGowan's presentation was one of several made Wednesday to an all-party committee of the provincial Legislature that is reviewing the government's current policy of indexing the minimum wage annually to match changes in the Alberta's average weekly earnings index. The policy was suspended earlier this year by Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, pending the review.
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour, 780-218-9888
Source: Statistics Canada, National Occupational Classification, Alberta, monthly, 2005-2010. CANSIM.
2010 Jun Speaking Notes - Presentation to Alberta Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on the Economy - Minimum Wage
As most of you know, the AFL is Alberta's largest labour organization, representing 29 unions in the public and private sectors with a collective membership of about 140,000 Albertans.
On behalf of that membership I'd like to thank you for this opportunity to present to this committee on the important question of how to set Alberta's minimum wage.
I've often been described in the media as one of the government's most vocal and persistent critics.
I'm the first to admit there's a lot of truth in that label.
On behalf of my members, I've raised concerns about this government's approach to workplace health and safety; its approach to labour law; its approach to temporary foreign workers; and its approach to development in the oil sands... among many other things.
So you can imagine my surprise when, two years ago, I found myself in agreement with a major decision made by the Premier and his then Minister of Employment, Hector Goudreau.
And I didn't just agree...I actually wanted to shout my enthusiastic support from the roof tops.
The decision I'm referring to, of course, was the decision to increase the minimum wage - and even more importantly - to explicitly tie future increases to changes in the average weekly wage index.
At the time, the premier and the minister basically said that whenever other Albertans got a raise, the lowest paid Albertans should get a raise too.
It was the same logic - and the same mechanism - that the government used to determine pay increases for MLAs.
I had a few quibbles. I thought the starting base wage should be set a little higher. And I thought the Alberta Consumer Price Index might have provided a more appropriate benchmark.
But, on balance, I felt the government had done the right thing for the right reasons. It was a simple system; a transparent system; a predictable system; and a fair system. It was, I would argue, an example of public policy at its thoughtful best.
I'm a strong believer in giving credit where credit is due, so I wasn't shy about praising the government. I did it in writing; I did it press releases and I said it to anyone who would listen.
Whole-heartedly supporting the Alberta government on a major policy issue was uncharted territory for me - but honestly, it felt good.
Unfortunately, today find myself in more familiar territory.
We're here because the new Minister of Employment, Thomas Lukazuk, has called for a review of Alberta's Minimum Wage policy and has suspended the small increase that was supposed to be given to minimum wage workers this spring.
To say that I'm disappointed by this turn of events would be an understatement.
When the Minister made his announcement about the freeze and the review, he said he was doing so because many employers had told him that an increases in the minimum wage, however small, would lead to significant job loss.
That's really why we're here today - because business owners - especially business owner in the service sector - played the jobs card ... and they did it during a recession.
To be fair, anyone sitting in the Employment Minister's chair, has to take concerns about job loss seriously - especially at a time when the number of unemployed is increasing.
But if you're a business or a business lobby group that is asking the government to take money out of the pockets of our poorest citizens, then the onus is on you to back up your arguments with facts, not fear.
Anecdotes aren't evidence and rhetoric is not reality.
But that's what this review is based on: unsubstantiated anecdotes; overheated rhetoric; and thinly disguised self interest.
I say all of this because when it comes to the argument that is at the core of this debate - the argument that even a small increase in the minimum wage would kill jobs - there is no evidence.
In fact, what the evidence shows is exactly the opposite. What the evidence shows is that employment in the low-wage service sector has actually INCREASED in Alberta whenever we've increased the minimum wage.
The Alberta Federation of Labour has conducted an five-year analysis of the occupations most likely to pay minimum or low wages - occupations in retail sales, cashiers and clerks, food and beverage service workers, and those employed in travel and accommodation.
Since 2005, Alberta has made four upward adjustments in the minimum wage...and every time the number of Albertans working in low wage jobs went up.
In 2005, the minimum wage was boosted from $5.90 to $7.00/hour. One year after the increase, there were 26,700 more Albertans working in the food and beverage, service, and travel/accommodation industries.
In September 2007, the Alberta government boosted the minimum wage from $7.00 to $8.00/hour. In April 2008, they increased it again to $8.40/hour. In the 8-month interval between these increases - and just as the global credit crisis was beginning to shake business and consumer confidence - the number of Albertans working in the food and beverage, retail, and travel/accommodation industries grew from a total of 342,800 to 363,300 employees.
Finally, in April 2009, the minimum wage increased again - from $8.40 to $8.80 per hour.
Around this time overall unemployment in Alberta had increased from 6% in April 2009 to 7.4% in May 2010. If increases in the minimum wage really killed jobs, you'd think surely at this time, when other jobs were being shed, this would happen. But it didn't.
- Employment in food and beverage service, retail sales, and travel/accommodations actually grew in the year since the last minimum wage increase.
- Albertans employed in retail sales as clerks and cashiers grew from 129,600 in April 2009 to 142,400 individuals in May 2010
- Albertans working in food and beverage service went from 64,700 in April 2009 to 68,700 in May 2010
- Albertans working in travel and accommodation services grew from 185,800 in April 2009 to 188,400 individuals in May 2010.
So why have all the conservative predictions about job loss related to minimum wage turned out to be empty phantoms. Partly because they we motivated more by the self-interested desire by some employers to keep wages low. But more importantly, those predictions were wrong because they were based on economic models as opposed to empirical evidence.
Models only work if the assumptions that they're based on a true ... that's why they're dangerous tools to rely on for policy making. Empirical evidence, on the other hand, is by definition true ... it's reality. And reality, not ideologically driven conjecture, should be the basis of all public policy - especially those policies that affect our most vulnerable citizens.
What the empirical evidence from right here in Alberta shows is that there is no substance to the argument that modest, predictable increases in the minimum wage kill jobs. It's a myth, plain an simply.
Unfortunately, it's not the only myth that has been clouding the debate on minimum wage.
For example, there's the minimum wage is a living wage. It's not.
An Albertan earning the minimum wage of $8.80/hour, working 40 hours per week and 50 weeks per year earns $17,600 per year before taxes, which is $4,533 below the before-tax Low-Income Cut-Off for an individual living in a city, better known as the poverty line.
If one is the head of a lone-parent family with two children in Edmonton or Calgary, a full-time hourly wage of $10/hour - the wage earned by 6.9% of working Albertans - still sees that family earning $13,133 per year less than the before-tax Low-Income Cut-Off.
Another myth has to do with the number of Albertans who struggle with low wages. Some people in government and business fond of reminding Albertans that very few workers earn minimum wage - as if this is a justification for keeping the minimum wage far below any accepted measure of poverty.
While it is true that only 1.4% of Alberta workers earn the bare minimum, fully 6.9% of the Alberta workforce earns less than $10/hour and 13.7% earned less than $12/hour, a wage that still constitutes a life of poverty.
The minimum wage is a floor. If the floor is too low, all workers at the lower end of the income ladder suffer... they're dragged down. That's why the minimum wage matters, even if only a small number of workers actually earn that wage.
Another myth is that low-wage earners are predominantly high school students living with their parents, who only work to pay for the latest video game or new cell phone.
This stereotype is an insult to the tens of thousands of Albertans - predominantly women - who are working for low wages in order to put food on the table.
59% of low-wage earners (less than $10/hour) are over 20, and 42% are over 25.
In other words, 42% of low-wage earners are likely to have family responsibilities.
The final myth that I want to address is the myth that Alberta is doing enough for its poor, especially its working poor.
In his letter of invitation for groups to present to this review, Minister of Employment and Immigration Thomas Lukaszuk urged the Standing Committee on the Economy to examine practices in other jurisdictions.
Minimum wage standards are part of an overall strategy to combat poverty and ensure economic security for all Albertans.
However, Alberta is in a minority of provinces without some form of anti-poverty strategy. For example:
- New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Manitoba all have comprehensive anti-poverty strategies, and part of the strategy in all of these provinces is ensuring the minimum wage keeps pace with the economy.
- 6 out of 10 provinces have provincial child benefits similar to the federal Child Tax Benefit, which supplement incomes for families headed by low-wage earners. Alberta is in the minority of provinces without a provincial child benefit.
So what conclusions can be drawn from all of this?
The main conclusion, I think, is that Alberta can and should do better. The other main conclusion is that Alberta can and should base its policy on minimum wage on facts and empirical evidence, not hearsay, rhetoric and self-interested fear-mongering.
And what do the facts tell us?
They tell us that too many working Albertans are suffering with low wages.
They tell us that regular, predictable increases to the minimum wage would help those struggling Albertans.
And they tell us that increases in the minimum wage have not in the pass and will not likely in the future result in the loss of jobs.
The bottom line for us is that Alberta can afford to be a leader in fighting poverty - and any serious strategy to fighting poverty has to include a regularly indexed minimum wage that is at least close to being a living wage.
We believe that anyone who works full-time, full-year in our province should earn a wage that allows them to stay out of poverty. The current minimum wage doesn't do that - and without a system for guaranteeing regular increases, the situation will only get worse as the value of the minimum wage is eroded by inflation.
The Alberta Federation of Labour applauded the government's 2007 decision to tie increases in the minimum wage to the average weekly earnings index.
We recommend that the government return immediately to following its own policy, and boost the minimum wage immediately to $9.05, as it was supposed to happen earlier this year.
In addition, as the economy recovers, the government should consider a one-time boost to the minimum wage in the months ahead.
As we have seen, thousands of Albertans earn less than $10/hour, and many of them are likely to have family responsibilities.
Boosting the minimum wage to $10/hour in the months ahead is unlikely to have any effect on the economy besides giving low-income families a little more breathing room.
Putting more money in the hands of hard-working, low-income people, according to every economic analysis available, actually provides a boost to the economy in times of recession.
As I've said, this is a government that did the right thing for the right reasons on minimum wage. Please do the right thing again. Thank you.
Gil McGowan, President
Alberta Federation of Labour
June 23, 2010
March 2010: Budget is cutting budget; Alberta women falling behind; Sklar Peppler boycott; Join Together Alberta
Despite all the spin, the recent budget is a cutting budget
- While the Stelmach government boosted health-care spending and held the line on education spending, in other ministries it was cut, cut, cut - a total of $1.3 billion in cuts in 14 ministries. Cuts include: Advanced Education and Technology by six per cent, or $205 million, which will lead to low-income students having to take on more loans, and to increased tuition fees; Children and Youth Services has by 3.1 per cent or $36 million, meaning less money for child care and for children in need; Housing and Urban Affairs by 18.6 per cent or $112 million, mainly in grants for affordable housing. For AFL analysis ...
Alberta women are falling behind
- A new study by the Edmonton-based Parkland Institute and the Womanspace Resource Centre in Lethbridge shows that the battle for rights and equality continues in this province (see AFL news release). The median income for Alberta women working full year, full time is 66 per cent of that earned by men. The gender wage gap is worse in Alberta than in all other provinces. The boom years have made things worse, not better, for Alberta's women. In 1993 women working full time earned 71 per cent of what men earned. For fact sheet ...
Getting our act together - at the AFL Membership Forum in April
- The end of the recession may be in sight - but storm clouds are still gathering on the horizon for workers and unions. Here in Alberta, we're facing the prospect of yet another round of deep cuts and privatization in the public sector. At this year's AFL Membership Forum we will address discuss how we can "Get Our Act Together" to more effectively protect the interests of working people in an increasingly hostile economic and political environment.
- The Canadian Labour Congress has endorsed a national consumer boycott against Sklar Peppler, Alan White branded furniture, and its manufacturer, AW Manufacturing (http://documents.clc-ctc.ca/Officers-EAs/USW-request-EN-only.pdf). The boycott is in support of the United Steelworkers, which saw 100 members lose their jobs and severance pay when Sklar Peppler declared bankruptcy in 2008. The president of Sklar Peppler bought the assets out of bankruptcy, bought AW Manufacturing Inc. in Mississippi and now uses product from that plant to sell to Sklar's customers.
Join the fight for jobs, justice and equality at the Legislature, Saturday, March 20th
The fight to protect Alberta's public services is far from over. Last month's budget included spending cuts of $1.3 billion in 14 ministries. These cuts will damage the fabric of communities throughout the province and the Join Together Alberta coalition is keeping the pressure on government to save our services and will stage a march to the legislature on Saturday, March 20, 2010.
Join Together Rally
- March 20, 2010, 12:30 p.m.
- March from Shaw Conference Centre/MacEwan University/105 Street and Jasper Avenue
- Marches meet up at the Legislature at 1:00 p.m. for rally
Membership Forum 2010
- April 23 and 24, 2010
- SAIT Polytechnic, Calgary
- Deadline for registration is April 16, 2010
- Deadline for hotel registration is April 2, 2010
Did you know ...
According to research by the Parkland Institute, Alberta spends less than 12 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on services, while the average among other provinces is 22.5 per cent. On the revenue side, if Alberta reverted to a progressive income tax (like all other provinces) instead of the flat tax, it would generate $5.5 billion in annual revenue, erasing the deficit at a stroke and provide funding for health, education and other vital services! For more details ...
Whether there's a boom or a bust, the economic reality facing women in Alberta is that they are falling further and further behind men.
A new study by the Edmonton-based Parkland Institute and the Womanspace Resource Centre in Lethbridge shows that the fight for rights and equality is far from over in this province. Nationally, Conservative government actions have stalled progress on women's issues, according to a report by the Canadian Labour Congress and several women's groups.
Gathering data from a variety of national sources, including Statistics Canada, the study shows that women in Alberta experience disproportionate levels of poverty and low wages. The median income for Alberta women working full year, full time is 66 per cent of that earned by men. The gender wage gap is worse in Alberta than in all other provinces. The boom years have made things worse, not better, for Alberta's women. In 1993 women working full time earned 71 per cent of what men earned.
Meanwhile, single mothers who rely on social assistance in Alberta receive the least amount of support of anyone in Canada. The situation is just as grim for female lone parents and their families, with 24 per cent being categorized as low income in Alberta, compared to the national rate of 16 per cent.
This situation has been met with a deafening silence in Alberta. This is the only jurisdiction in Canada where women have no formal voice in government, with neither a ministry nor an advisory council on the status of women. The Alberta Federation of Labour calls on the Alberta government to recognize that a high wage gap between men and women has negative consequences for the public and private sectors, including lost productivity, low retention of skilled labour and high levels of poverty. It is time for the government to follow the lead of other provinces - which have fewer financial resources - and tackle this issue.
Nationally, gender-equality issues have slowed under the Conservative government, according to a report by the Canadian Labour Congress and several women's rights groups presented to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York.
The report, called Reality Check: Women in Canada, criticizes the federal government for eliminating a proposed $5-billion national child-care and early-learning program, for closing 12 of 16 Status of Women offices across the country and for cutting resources for gender-equality projects.
"Half-hearted gestures regarding the possibility of changing our national anthem to reflect gender equality are no substitute for concrete policies to end inequalities," says Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "On one hand, for a few days some federal Conservatives say gender equality in the anthem is important, but on the other the government eliminates the phrase gender equality from the mandate of the national Status of Women office. The government pays lip service to the issue, but its actions speak far louder than its word."
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Media contact:Nancy Furlong, Secretary Treasurer @ 780-483-3021 or 780-720-8945 (cell)