Queen's University IRC

Implementing Pay Equity in Ontario


M. Lynn Burkart

January 1, 1990

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate issues in the implementation of pay equity, based on the experience of Ontario. The Ontario Act is considered as having the broadest scope of coverage of pay equity legislation, not only in Canada but in North America. This paper compares the Pay Equity Act of Ontario to other pieces of Canadian equal pay for work of equal value legislation, exploring the similarities and dissimilarities, highlighting the unique features and discussing the implications of various provisions.

A number of issues surround the implementation of pay equity legislation in Ontario. Based on information gathered from conferences, seminars, published documents and interviews with various employers, unions, advocacy groups, and the Pay Equity Commission, the issues discussed relate to the implementation process, the legislation, the role of the Pay Equity Commission, pay equity and collective bargaining and excluded women.

Despite the many issues and problems that the parties face in the implementation of pay equity, there have been a number of settlements that have been reached. Two of these success stories are summarized. As these and other cases are examined, the ability to settle in a timely manner can be attributed to several elements: earlier commencement, favourable labour-management relationships, favourable attitudes towards the premise of pay equity, and the choice of a gender-neutral comparison system. The general impact of pay equity legislation and negotiations have on labour-management relationships, inter-union relationships and intra-union relationships is also examined. This paper concludes with comments on whether Ontario’s equal pay for work of equal value legislation will work, that is, eliminate the portion of the wage gap that is attributed to the undervaluation of women’s work.

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