Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Quebec's Pay Equity Blunder

Regardless of political stripe, nobody can argue against the principle of equal pay for equal work. It's a simple concept. In a group of workers where everyone does essentially the same task, everyone should be paid equally. Not exactly rocket science. Demanding that employers respect this principle is reasonable and fair and the government can't be faulted for demanding it.

Unfortunately that's not what pay equity is about in Quebec.

Last week, the Quebec Parliament unanimously passed an amendment
extending the application of the pay equity legislation to companies with as few as 10 employees. The legislation will force small business' to implement the costly and onerous measures called for in the law without any discernible benefits to women employees. All this at a time when the economy is in recession and small business' are being squeezed by the banks.

Political leaders have demonstrated their utter ignorance and contempt towards this segment of the economy that is the most important contributor to our economic prosperity.

Unaware and unconcerned with the havoc that they have unleashed and the harm that they will bring to the workplace and the economy, the 107 members of Parliament are busy patting themselves on the back for advancing the cause of women's rights.

It is as if we live in a alternate universe. A province where the recession doesn't exist and where market forces, competition and reality don't matter.

The iron grip that the women's movement holds over the our politicians is so powerful that not one member of the assembly had the guts to rise up and declare that the pay equity legislation already in place, is flawed and unfair.

Imposing this law on small business' is shear lunacy.

Because the pay equity legislation is socialistic attempt to control company's ability to compensate employees as they see fit. It makes the presumption that all women are underpaid and that every employer is an exploiter.

The PAY EQUITY ACT is so draconian that it must have been written by the most militant of feminists, it practically drips with male-bashing hatred.
The language of the law is clear and Clause 1 of the Act says it all.

"1.The purpose of this Act is to redress differences in compensation due to the systemic gender discrimination suffered by persons who occupy positions in predominantly female job classes."

Every employer that has a group of employees that is largely female is deemed an exploiter by default, period. The guide provided to employers by the Pay Equity Commission makes no bones about it.
As an employer whose enterprise employs 10 to 49 employees, you must:
• determine the compensation adjustments needed to achieve pay equity;

Not content to demand equal pay for equal work for individuals, the government decided to stretch the bounds of credulity by imposing pay equity for job classes. That's right, job descriptions.

How does it work?
The legislation demands that employers look a your job and decide whether it is 'male' or 'female' by nature. If you work as a telephone operator, the government assumes it's a female job because most of those holding the job are female. It doesn't matter that some of the operators are male. From here the government presumes that this group (and all other 'female' groups) has been subject to discrimination and demands that the company determine what pay adjustment should be made to redress discrimination.

Pay equity isn't about paying all the operators both male and female equally, it's a fantasy where employers are forced to divided employees into groups, decide whether the group is 'female' or 'male' by nature and then evaluate the relative contribution made by these groups to the company's bottom line. If, for example the 'female' group of telephone operators is deemed to contribute as much as the 'male' group of, say telephone installers, then they need to be paid the same. If the women are paid less, a pay equity adjustment needs to be made to all operators including the males.

The interpretation of who is who, what is what and which equals which, is so complicated that it takes an army of accountants and actuaries to do an accurate assessment, one that is subjective and ultimately open to interpretation. In fact the government
already assumes that workers will object to the company's determination and has empanelled a review board to adjudicate.
While big companies can deal with these issues, they have the staff and deep pockets, how can you apply this principle to a company with just 10 employees?

How can a company with ten people compare groups, where no groups exist?

The provisions in the law to determine pay equity for these small groups is so stupid that it reeks of Orwellian fantasy.

The government has failed to consider the following;
  • It is well nigh impossible for a small business to undertake the crushing paperwork demanded by the legislation and being forced to hire a professional consultant, at thousands of dollars, is unfair.
  • It is impossible to compare salaries based on classes of jobs, when there are so few employees to compare.
  • Small business' don't have the capacity to increase salaries anyway. If the government was fair, they'd allow companies to lower salaries of groups considered 'favoured ' to achieve parity.
  • The provisions that require posting a sign in the workplace that tells women that they are exploited, can only contribute to a hostile work environment.
  • Regardless of intentions, the program is a waste of time, small business' just won't pay. If it means arranging their affairs differently, that's what they'll do, including firing women or reducing their workforce to under ten employees by contracting out.
  • In a small business, employees work closely with the owner and creating conflict is not in the best interest of anyone. For every employee who complains and seeks redress under the law, there will be 100 complainers who will be punished for 'unrelated' reasons. In the case of pay equity complaints, there is no black and white for a complainer. They can expect a long and punishing judicial process, which may in the end garner them a raise of 3% or 4%. Nobody but a zealot would pursue such a self-destructive course of action.
If you are a women working for a small company, don't hold your breath for a raise.
Complain about pay equity at you own peril.

As for the Quebec government, continuing to enact absurd and costly social and language legislation makes Quebec the most unattractive destination in North America for a company to locate in.

One day, the rest of Canada will wake up and refuse to subsidize these Quebec programs that are too rich for them to implement in their own province.


  1. "As for the Quebec government, continuing to enact absurd and costly social and language legislation makes Quebec the most unattractive destination in North America for a company to locate in"

    If it wasn't with tax breaks, subventions and loans with almost no interest rate and almost free electricity lots of businesses would already be gone far away like Bombardier and Alcan for instance.


  2. the quebec 2009 Pay Equity Act youre refering to as this new and "ridiculous" legislation is actually just a renewal- with minor changes- to the original 1996 quebec pay equity act that prescribes the same female/male job classifcation and re-evalutaion as is in the 2009 act. Also just to clarify, pay equity is equal pay for work of equivilant value... that means two people doing two different jobs that produce roughly the same usefulness/benefit for the enterprise- should be paid equally. the scenario you describe is equal work- equal pay, literally paying both workers the same wage for the same labour- that is covered in different legislation... in quebec the Normes Du Travaille- minimum standards, and of course the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

    maybe a quick google search before all those opinions hey.

  3. Oh hey, I forgot- the quebec 1996 legislation is borrowed from the -Ontario- Pay Equity Act.

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