News | March 07, 2012

By Marty Klinkenberg, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON - The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees plans to press the Redford government to address a disparity in pay equity in the wake of a report that shows women working full-time in the province earn 68 per cent as much as men.The study by the Alberta College of Social Workers and the Parkland Institute, a public policy research group, says Alberta ranks with Newfoundland and Labrador as having the highest wage gap in the country. The report released Wednesday, the eve of International Women’s Day, shows Alberta has made little progress in the past three decades. Since 1998, the wage difference between genders has grown three per cent.“There is definitely a problem, and it’s disappointing,” said Glen Scott, a vice-president with the AUPE. “We are hoping that this report will make this a topic again.“This isn’t a union thing. Everyone has a mother or a wife or a sister or a daughter, so it affects all of us. Our message is that women give 100 per cent and deserve to be compensated at that level. It’s 2012.”Scott said the union’s committee on pay equity will lobby Alberta’s 17 female MLAs, including Alison Redford, the first woman to serve as premier.“As a woman, you would think she would be more sensitive to these issues, but the province doesn’t even have pay equity legislation,” Scott said. “The government clearly seems OK with the status quo.”Kathy Telfer, spokeswoman for the province’s Human Services Department, said it was difficult for the government to respond Wednesday because it had just begun to peruse the report.“Wage equity is a complex issue and you can’t just put stats out there alone,” Telfer said. “You have to look at what is going on and what attempts are being made to encourage women’s participation in the workforce.”In November, Redford assigned Human Services Minister Dave Hancock to develop a social policy framework, and Telfer said the province is working with provincial and federal counterparts to look at the issue. The province has introduced programs to encourage female students to enter fields traditionally dominated by men, including oil and gas and other resource-based industries.Just last week, a survey released by government pinned the average hourly wage at $24.84, a slight increase from 2009, when the average hourly wage was $24.34. Figures quoted in the Parkland Institute study released Wednesday were based on data obtained from Statistics Canada in 2009.In addition to the overall wage gap, the study also found women fare far worse than men in the key earning years between 25 and 44, that the gap increases with age and that women are more dependent on low-wage, part-time jobs. It also points out that Alberta is the only jurisdiction in Canada that lacks a minister or advisory council on the status of women.“We have been advocating on behalf of women for what seems like eons,” said Brian Henderson, president of the Edmonton District Labour Council. He said employers “have to take a look at the pay scale for women. It has to be employers that correct this difference.”Diana Gibson, research director at the Parkland Institute, said the wage gap has fluctuated, but that the trend is troubling.“It ebbs and it flows, but we’re not anywhere near where we should be,” she said. “When you know there is tremendous wealth in the province and you see women so far behind, it’s very disappointing.“Hopefully, the premier’s social policy framework will allow everyone to benefit.”By Marty Klinkenberg, Edmonton Journalmklinkenberg@edmontonjournal.com

This article was published in the Edmonton Journal on March 7, 2012. Read the full article on the Edmonton Journal website.

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