Canada Post refuses to acknowledge pay equity debt

OTTAAWA (11 October 2005) -- THE Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) is calling Canada Post's decision to appeal a decision by a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in a 22-year old pay equity complaint a disgrace. On October 7, the Tribunal awarded at least $150-million in pay and interest to about 6,000 current and former Canada Post clerical workers.

"Canada Post had filed its appeal with the Federal Court within minutes of the Tribunal officially releasing its decision," says PSAC National President Nycole Turmel. "They obviously never had any intention of abiding by the decision and paying what they owe."

According to Turmel, the appeal is very disappointing but not a surprise. "From the beginning, Canada Post has shown no interest in dealing with the union's complaint or meeting their obligations under the law. They refused to cooperate with the Canadian Human Rights investigation and they admitted before the Tribunal that they provided inaccurate information."

"To date, not one of Canada Post's legal challenges has been successful, either before the Tribunal or in Court," says Richard Des Lauriers, President of the PSAC's Union of Postal Communications Employees component. "This is clearly just another attempt to delay the process even more and to avoid owning up to their pay equity debt to our current and former members."

PSAC's case against Canada Post is the longest running federal pay equity complaint to date. It is an example of everything that is wrong with the current pay equity legislation.

The legislation puts the onus on individual women or unions to file complaints and prove their employers are discriminating. Employers are not compelled to provide accurate, timely information or to cooperate with investigations. The Canadian Human Rights Commission doesn't have the staff to deal with, much less investigate, complaints in a timely way. Employers can drag out the Tribunal process indefinitely and try to exhaust the resources of the complainants with legal challenges.

"The government's own Pay Equity Task Force issued a report back in May 2004 that accurately described the hurdles faced by women in the federal sector seeking pay equity," says Turmel. "While the current law obliges employers to pay equal pay for work of equal value, there is no onus on them to prove that they are doing so and no penalties if they do not."

The Canada Post case gives the Liberal government yet one more compelling reason to act quickly to introduce new proactive pay equity legislation, as recommended by the Task Force. PSAC is once again calling on Prime Minister Martin and Justice Minister Cotler to bring in new legislation this fall.

"Even before the legislation is introduced, the government, as a gesture of good faith, should direct Canada Post to withdraw their appeal and close the book on a case that has covered two decades," says Turmel. "By the time this appeal is heard, the complaint will be close to the quarter-century mark. Just how long do women have to wait for justice?"

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