The Pay Equity Act (PEA) mandates the employers, which is the Treasury Board for the public sector’s workers, to carry out work to ensure the maintenance of pay equity within their organization.

That work aims to identify whether changes or events have created differences in compensation between predominantly female job classes and predominantly male job classes.

Until 2009, the Act stipulated that the employers had to continuously maintain pay equity and to make the necessary adjustments, but did not specify the assessment procedure. To better structure the process, the legislator decided to transform the continuous maintenance obligation into periodical pay equity audits every five years.

Complaints made

The Treasury Board carried out pay equity audit work in 2010 and in 2015 for employees of the public sector. The 2020 audit, for its part, was postponed, notably because of the pandemic.

The CSQ questioned the Treasury Board on the approach taken to carry out the 2010 and 2015 audits. It analyzed the data, verified the results and shared that information and its concerns with its federations about various job categories.

Together with the federations, local unions made audit-related complaints to the Pay Equity Commission, then in charge of overseeing the application of the PEA.1

Untreated cases

The Centrale and its affected federations participated in the conciliation process for the 2010 pay equity audit complaints, which started in 2013. It was only in June 2021 that agreements were finally signed by some federations.

“Despite these positive settlements, the work isn’t done, claims CSQ president, Éric Gingras. Thousands of other complaints are still being processed for some job classes.”

All of the 2015 audit complaints are currently at the investigation service of the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST). No conciliation has been realized to this day with the Treasury Board. The CNESST first needs to complete the processing of the 2010 complaints, before starting the investigations of the 2015 audit complaints.

Actions to undertake

“Pay equity was always a priority issue for the Centrale, explains Éric Gingras. We were in action before the adoption of the Pay Equity Act and we still are.”

According to him, it is unacceptable that the Treasury Board still has not resolved all the audit complaints. “There’s a lack of will from the Treasury Board to apply the law and proceed with the required salary adjustments, he deplores. At the CSQ, we will continue to press the government so that the Pay Equity Act, still discriminatory, is the object of a substantial reform to make sure all the amounts due are paid.”

The Centrale intends to continue the battle on several fronts. It demands, among other things, the right to a fair and equitable value determination as part of the pay equity audit, transparency in the information used to carry out the work, as well as the unions’ participation in the value determination.

“We can’t back down on such a strategic question, because equality between women and men isn’t negotiable,” concludes Éric Gingras.

Glossary to better understand 

Pay equity: right of workers occupying a typically female job to receive a salary equal to that of someone occupying a typically male job of equal value in terms of qualifications, responsibilities, effort and working conditions. It is different from pay equality which refers to an equal salary for an equal job.

Predominantly female/male job: job traditionally or mainly occupied by women or men.

Legislator: name given to the institution that creates laws, which is the National Assembly of Québec.

Audit-related complaint: complaint filed by a union to denounce a situation where the employer (Treasury Board) did not carry out the pay equity work or did not carry it out correctly.

1 The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) now applies the Pay Equity Act.