EDMONTON - The time has come for the federal government to stop dragging its feet on the issue of pay equity for public employees, says Audrey Cormack, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
Cormack says a decision handed down this afternoon by the Federal Court reinforces the need for sweeping changes in the way the federal government pays its employees. It also underscores the need to compensate thousands of employees for years of discriminatory pay practices.
In a written judgement, Justice J. Evans of the Federal Court rejected a federal government appeal of a landmark pay-equity decision made last year by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
In July 1998, the Tribunal ruled that the federal government had, for years, been underpaying thousands of employees working in female-dominated job classifications. To remedy the situation, the Tribunal ordered the government to give 13 years of back pay to almost 200,000 current and former employees - most of whom are women.
"These women have waited long enough for fairness," said Cormack, pointing out that the complaint that started the whole debate on pay equity was originally filed with the Human Rights Tribunal in 1985. "Fourteen years is a long time. Now that the Federal Court has upheld the Tribunal's decision, the government should do the right thing and give these workers what they are owed."
Cormack acknowledged that the government could still appeal the decision to the Federal Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. But she said further appeals would benefit no one.
"There is absolutely no doubt that the Human Rights Tribunal's decision was the right one - both morally and legally - so any appeal to the Federal Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court would simply be a further waste of taxpayers money," said Cormack. "With this in mind, we are calling on the federal government to procedure with the implementation of the Tribunal's decision without further delay. People like Prime Minister Chretien and Treasury Board President Lucienne Robillard should remember that old saying: 'justice delayed is justice denied.' In this case, we think that justice has already been denied for too long."
For more information call:
Audrey Cormack, President: 780-483-3021 (wk) / 780-499-6530 (cell) / 780-428-9367 (hm)
EDMONTON - A group of union leaders and activists from across Alberta with gather in Edmonton tomorrow to discuss strategies for combating racism, harassment and discrimination in the workplace and in the broader community.
The meeting is being held this weekend in recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Racism - which falls each year on March 21st. On March 21, 1960, South African police fired into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in Sharpeville Township, killing sixty-nine people.
Since that time, the anniversary of the "Sharpeville Massacre" has become a rallying point for people involved in the struggle against racism - it's a time to remember all the suffering that has been caused by racism and to celebrate successes in the battle for racial tolerance.
At the AFL meeting, members of the federation's Workers of Colour and Aboriginal Workers caucus will discuss the role that unions can play in the battle against racism. In particular, participants will report on the progress made towards implementing recommendations from a conference on racism and human rights sponsored by the AFL last fall.
"We've come a long way since Sharpeville," says AFL president Audrey Cormack. "But, unfortunately, racism and intolerance are still big problems, around the world and right here in Alberta. Just this month many Albertans were shocked when Conservative MLA Ivan Strang told New Democrat Raj Pannu to "go back to India." "This was a clear example of the scope of the problem. That's why we are doing our part to foster tolerance in offices, shops and factories around the province."
Cormack says tomorrow's meeting will be an opportunity for activists to build on the steps that have already been taken by unions to educate their members about the damage caused by intolerance.
"The labour movement is taking the problems of racism and discrimination very seriously," says Cormack. "We see this meeting as just one more step in our continuing campaign to eradicte intolerance and promote a more welcoming environment at work, in our communities and within our unions. We are hopeful that the discussion we have this weekend will lay the groundwork for constructive change."
Members of the AFL Workers of Colour and Aboriginal Workers Caucus will be meeting in closed sessions from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, March 20. Participants in the meeting will be available to answer questions from the media between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. The meeting will be held in Rm 112 of the AUPE Building (10451-170 Street). Cormack can be reached for comment by phone.
For more information call:
Audrey Cormack, President: 483-302 (work) 499-6530 (cell) 428-9367 (home)
EDMONTON - As women go marching on International Women's Day in 1999, the Alberta Federation of Labour will be joining them and reflecting on their progress over the past Century and the challenges they continue to face well into the next Century and the new millennium.
"Looking back over the past 100 years, women have made many gains. But they did not come easy," said Audrey Cormack, AFL President "At the turn of the 20th Century, women in the industrially developing countries were entering paid employment in the textile, manufacturing and domestic service sectors. However, their working conditions were horrid and their wages unacceptably low. Women didn't have the right to vote and their call for "bread and roses" were virtually ignored. It wasn't until they gathered collectively that their voices were heard. And it was that collective voice that moved many women workers into unions," said Cormack.
Today, one in three Canadian working women belongs to a union, and the benefits to these women are considerable. They earn 33% more than non-union women workers, they have more job protection, better health and dental benefits, pensions, paid maternity leave, sick leave, parental leave, flexible work time, workplace child care, and access to same-sex benefits to mention a few. Gains won by the unionized workforce have also benefited women outside the union sector.
"However, in recent years, governments' drive toward privatization has resulted in cuts to well-paid employment for women. The social services, health and education sectors were hardest hit resulting in mass layoffs for workers, most of whom were unionized women," said Cormack.
"The impact of privatization in the health sector alone weighs heavily on the shoulders of Canadian women who are the majority of those employed in those sectors, those who are the recipients of services and those providing care at home. The outcome of privatization has left women bearing the responsibility of providing volunteer work in the community and unpaid care for those released early from hospitals," said Cormack.
"While there has been an increase in employment in the service sector, those benefiting from new jobs are faced with part-time, temporary or casual work with low wages and no benefits. And this trend makes it difficult to organize these workers into unions, although not impossible," said Cormack, citing a recent victory in the unionization of McDonalds's employees in British Columbia, many of whom were young women.
"These trends, however, will not stop women from moving forward. They will not be so easily relocated from the workplace back into the kitchen, nor will they be easily silenced. It only gives them more reason to come together to talk, to share and to strategize," said Cormack, pointing to the World March for Women 2000.
Born out of two Canadian expereinces, the World March for Women 2000 will begin on March 8, 2000 and continue through to October 17, 2000 with actions taking place throughout the world.
Those experiences came out of the 1995 Women's March Against Poverty in Quebec, organized by the Federation des femmes de Quebec and the National Women's March Against Poverty in 1996 organized by the Canadian Labour Congress and the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. Many of the demands that women made in Quebec were achieved. However, there is still much to be done in Canada and the rest of the world.
"The World March for Women 2000 will provide women with the opportunity to let the decision-makers of the world know that they will not back down and take less; that the road to equality begins with the recognition that women be active participants in the democratic, social and political process."
"The Alberta Federation of Labour has signed on as a participatory group to the World March and will be joining other organizations in Alberta in the next year to plan actions in this province, in Canada, and internationally. We look forward to participating in this world-wide event and the challenges ahead," concluded Cormack.
For more information call:
Audery Cormack, President: 483-3021 (work) 499-6530 (cell) 428-9367 (home)