By PAT WATSON
Until we can find an economic system that assures every human being that we live in a world of sufficiency and not scarcity, the best we may hope for is a patchwork of fixes to the current capitalist model in which we all navigate.
The latest effort patch here in Ontario is the Liberal government’s anticipated legislation aimed at transparency on wages in order to close the gender pay gap.
Women in the workforce across Canada earn 87 cents for every dollar earned by men. But, when factoring other aspects of identity, the gap is even greater. Consider too, that full-time, stable employment is beyond the reach of many women in our emerging precarious and temporary work culture, so that women have fewer hours of wage earning work than men.
The comparative statistics on that dollar average for a working man is 57 percent less for Indigenous women, 39 percent less for immigrant women, 32 percent less for racialized women, and 42 percent less for women with disabilities.
I’m still waiting for someone to explain why we should be celebrating a $14-per-hour minimum wage.
It has to be repeated that $14 per hour, which lags behind the actual cost of living, still leaves minimum wage earners living below the poverty line.
It would be nice to be able to celebrate this new wage transparency legislation, which is set to be passed a month before provincial elections in June, but like the new minimum wage it is a half-measure, meaning that it leaves a lot of workers still unaccounted for.
The change in making salaries transparent will most directly affect Ontario Public Service jobs, which are unionized jobs that already have to make salaries public anyway. Also affected are companies with 500 or more employees.
This transparency legislation does not draw in smaller companies or people who work through temporary employment agencies, for example
There is no information so far regarding what penalties there might be for companies that do not adhere to the legislation, and there should be since the responsibility has been sidestepped for decades.
This legislation is long overdue considering that there have been rules in place on equal pay for equal work for over 50 year in this province.
In addition, this new legislation aims to also put an end to rules prohibiting workers from speaking about their salaries. Imposed secrecy through coercion has been a very effective method for keeping control of gender-biased wages.
Even outside the workplace, we have a culture of secrecy when it comes to speaking about our incomes. This makes it much easier to maintain the practice among co-workers but it does not serve the interest of fair wages across the board.
The Liberal government has received some criticism from workers’ rights advocates as well as the Ontario New Democrats, who have questioned why it took so long to come forward with this type of legislation.
Optimistically, it is better late than never. But realistically, it still doesn’t go far enough. If it is in an effort to secure votes, since it will be passed in May but not come into effect until January 2019, then it is a limp attempt.
That’s been one of the problems with this government all along. If only they had the courage to do anything in full measure for the benefit of those who most need the strong backing of government legislation.
There are far more poor people in this province than rich people, meaning, a larger potential share of votes, should any political party care to support those voters.
A note on the march toward justice …
The United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is Wednesday, March 21. This year’s theme is “Promoting tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity in the context of combating racial discrimination”. May we all be one with this grand intention toward justice.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter @patprose.