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Victory for Pay Equity in Court of Appeal

The Québec Court of Appeal recently handed down a major decision in relation to pay equity that is being hailed as a significant victory for tens of thousands of women.

This decision upholds a judgement of the Superior Court of Québec in January 2014 that had declared unconstitutional a portion of the 2009 reform of the Pay Equity Act. This reform ruled out the retroactivity of pay equity maintenance payments and imposed inadequate information requirements to the benefit of the female workers affected. In the context of traditionally female-dominated occupations, the judge concluded that this represented a cause of gender discrimination.

The Pauline Marois government had appealed the case, raising the ire of unions across Quebec. Yesterday’s Court of Appeal decision confirms the unfairness of holding back access for female workers to full equity in the event of a change in their duties or in working conditions at a company.

It also sets out the employer’s obligation to provide more information to female employees concerning the details of five-year reviews of their positions.

Led by CUPE, this issue was championed by Annick Desjardins on behalf of the approximately 150,000 members represented by unions affiliated with the FTQ (CUPE, SEPB, SQEES) and in coalition with the FIQ, the APTS and the SFPQ. “We are now hoping that this time the Minister of Justice will decide not to appeal,” stated CUPE-Québec president Denis Bolduc. “This administration, whose austerity measures have done so much harm to women, should finally be providing women access to pay equity, which is a major milestone in the struggle for full equity among women across Quebec.”

The Quebec government has 60 days to refer the case to the Supreme Court.

With more than 111,000 members, CUPE-Quebec is active in 10 different sectors, including health and social services, communications, education, universities, energy, municipalities, Quebec government corporations and public agencies, air transportation, public transit and the mixed sector.

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