On November 21, 1996, the Pay Equity Act was adopted by the 88 MPs present at the National Assembly when the vote was held. The Act answers the demands articulated by the 800 participants of the Bread and Roses March which took place in June 1995.

Since then, the Act has had direct positive effects on the public and parapublic sectors. It requires that businesses with 10 or more employees perform a preliminary pay equity exercise, conduct a pay equity audit every five years, post the audit results and report on the implementation of the Act in the business.

The Act enabled to reduce the wage gap between 1997 and 2018. Yet, it didn't completely erase the inequities. Women are still subject to systemic discrimination based on gender. As proof: men still earn 10.2% more than women, according to Statistics Canada.

This situation is inadmissible, says CSQ president Éric Gingras. “Pay equity is a seminal principle of our society, a fundamental right. Those disparities have no place in a society like ours," he denounces.


A never-ending fight

In May 2018, after a long fight, led notably by the CSQ and the other labour unions, the Supreme Court invalidated some sections of the Act and forced the Québec government to amend it. Canada’s highest court stated that the salary adjustments had to be retroactive to the moment when discrimination appeared, instead of when the pay equity audit is conducted (every five years).

Other amendments were made to the Act in 2019, but they didn't solve the issues. Instead, they generated other problems. The CSQ and other union organizations pursued legal action to challenge the provisions that are discriminatory and that don't allow women to gain full salary adjustments, among other things.

Agreements, but pending complaints also

Many major agreements were concluded in 2021 in regards with the pay equity maintenance of 2010.

Those agreements apply to many predominantly female job groups, including education professionals (librarians, rehabilitation counsellors, speech and hearing correction officers, guidance counsellors) and support staff (school and centre secretaries, as well as daycare technicians).

"Despite these positive agreements, we continue our interventions to settle thousands of other maintenance complaints that are still pending,” states Éric Gingras. “We also continue to urge the government to conduct a substantial review of the Act, because equality between women and men isn't negotiable."

"We will make sure that women get respected through the Act. We can't wait 25 more years for pay equity to finally become a reality. Action is needed and the Act has to be reviewed right now."

– CSQ president Éric Gingras

25 years of fighting and more to come

The Act is 25, but the fight still isn't finished. "The fight we thought we'd won 25 years ago is still underway. We thought we had gained pay equity for women, but we're still waiting for it. We need to do everything to avoid any type of setback and continue to go forward," adds Éric Gingras.

To commemorate the Act's 25th anniversary, the CSQ intends to conduct a campaign that will highlight the Act's repercussions on its members. The Centrale intends to make sure that everyone understands this fundamental issue, promote the Act and call on the MPs to increase the awareness of its importance and put forward the acknowledgement of predominantly female jobs.

"We will make sure that women get respected through the Act. We can't wait 25 more years for pay equity to finally become a reality. Action is needed and the Act has to be reviewed right now," concludes Éric Gingras.

The Pay Equity Act in a nutshell

Pay equity refers to the fundamental right to obtain an equal salary for an equivalent job. The Pay Equity Act aims to “redress discriminatory differences in compensation suffered by persons who occupy positions in predominantly female job classes.” All businesses with 10 or more employees in the public and private sectors are required to comply with the Act. The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) is responsible for the administration of the Act.