Women’s Committee are Packing Purses

dsc_0347-2The Women’s Rights Committee of the Kamloops and District Labour Council marked the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women by filling gently used purses with basic necessities for women fleeing violence. Donations poured in from affiliates and community groups and included scarves, gloves, hair brushes, make up, soap, shampoo, perfume, feminine hygiene products and more.

“We were expecting to put together 50 purses but with the overwhelming inpouring of donations, we ended up with around 140,” says Barb Nederpel, President of the labour council. The purses were happily received by the Kamloops Y Women’s Shelter.

Nederpel says that this is a small gesture to help out the shelter and the women who depend on it. “Violence against women is an increasing concern and this government isn’t doing enough to provide the services and supports that women and families need. What does exist, does not meet demand, and services are often funded year-to-year, with no long term commitment from the B.C. government.”

Nederpel, also the candidate for the Kamloops North Thompson NDP, reflected on her own personal history facing and fleeing intimate partner abuse.

“I was trapped in this relationship as a teenager through young adulthood. Every single day was a struggle to exist and I made wrong choices as a result. I imploded my career, I couldn’t afford to leave, even if I had somewhere to go or family to lean on, and I had a young baby I needed to protect,” says Nederpel. “It was only through social programs that existed at that time that I was finally able make my way out.”

Nederpel laments that it shouldn’t have to be as arduous or dangerous as it is for women to leave.

Last spring, NDP MLA, Maurine Karigianis introduced a private members bill to protect the job security of victims of domestic violence. The Employment Standards Domestic Violence Leave Amendment Act would guarantee that those fleeing domestic violence have the ability to take a leave of absence from work, giving them the time that they need to move their family to safety.

“The Christy Clark government refused to support it. I was very disappointed because I know how dramatically that legislation could have altered my life.”

In March 2016, the Province of Manitoba amended their employment standards to afford workers who are victims of domestic violence with eligibility for five days of paid, protected employment leave. Ontario is looking at a private members bill that would grant 10 days.

Poverty disproportionately impacts women and children and BC has the worst child poverty in the country. “Poverty traps women in dangerous relationships and yet, BC is the only province without a poverty reduction plan. Raising the minimum wage and providing affordable childcare would go a long way to give women the opportunity to stand on her own two feet and live independently,” says Nederpel.

“We really need to do more to address violence against women in our province with stronger education and awareness, prevention and community support initiatives.”

The Kamloops Shoe Memorial commemorating the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women will be held December 6th, at St. Andrew’s on the Square. Speakers will begin at 12:15 and will include Barb Nederpel.

Hockey Players Denied Due Process

KDLC logoAfter much consideration and deliberation, our executive and membership has democratically decided to not participate in Union Night with the Kamloops Blazers.

We had been excited to work with the Blazer organization as many of our members are season ticket holders or fans and it would have been an excellent opportunity to show the density and commonality of union members in our community.

Unfortunately, just as we had launched the event and had a very positive response from affiliates, it came to our attention that hockey players in the Canadian Hockey League across this country are in a battle for recognition as employees and are seeking compensation at least at the rate of minimum wage.

A $180 million class action law suit against the CHL has been filed and still remains to be certified by the judge before it can proceed.

Junior hockey players work 5 – 7 hours a day beyond their time spent on their education, on training, playing and community obligations, are required to follow stringent guidelines and rules, and relinquish rights to their name and image.

In return, they are provided varying levels of compensation such as a pay cheque between $35 – $50 per week, room and board, and assistance towards tutoring fees and post secondary courses. This amounts to far less than minimum wage being paid by these profitable businesses, not only the local hockey club, but through revenue sharing with the NHL and Rogers SportsNet.

A recent FOI request by the Vancouver Sun has revealed that hockey club owners, who have been substantial BC Liberal donors, have successfully lobbied the government to circumvent any unfavourable court decision.

The BC Liberals quietly passed an order-in-council last February that considers the players on the 6 BC teams as “student-athletes,” are excluded from protections by the Employment Standards Act, including the right to minimum wage, and have been denied due process and recourse.

The labour movement is profoundly devoted to upholding due process, worker’s rights, fair wages, and safe working conditions, and we simply cannot, in good conscious, participate under the umbrella of our organization in these circumstances.

We are not seeking to call on our membership to withdraw their individual participation at Blazer games. But we stand in solidarity with the players who deserve respect and appropriate compensation and are committed to calling on the next provincial government for a full review of employment standards.

Labour Day 2016


For Canada’s unions, Labour Day is our time to celebrate our work and the everyday victories we win to make life better for everyone. This year we have even more reason to celebrate as we gather on our 60th anniversary of the Kamloops and District Labour Council.

At the KDLC, making life better for working people is, to put it simply, a labour of love. Values like fairness, equality and working together are what drive us to make a difference and is why we work hard to tackle issues like poverty, precarious work and the shrinking number of good jobs.

For nearly a decade, we advocated for stronger public pensions as we believe after a lifetime of work, no one should have to struggle just to make ends meet. Finally, for the first time in 50 years, the federal government and most of Canada’s premiers have agreed that it is time to expand the Canada Pension Plan.

While today’s seniors still need help to avoid falling into poverty, it is young workers who will benefit most from this change. Already faced with a hostile jobs market and record levels of debt, today’s young workers needed a new way to save for retirement. Planning for the future isn’t possible when you can’t count on a steady income and predictable work hours, let alone finding a job in the first place.

Federal and provincial governments need to restore the conditions required to grow and sustain good jobs in a diverse economy. It’s fair and simple to request, but it’s yet another uphill struggle that Canada’s unions are ready to help push forward.

Increasing the minimum wage is an important starting point. The KDLC has been an active participant in the largest international grassroots movement of our time, the Fight for $15, holding rallies and petition signing in our community.

But it is not just young workers that would benefit from an increased minimum wage. Over 80% of minimum wage workers are over the age of 20 and two out of three of those are women. Even when working full time, the current rate leaves workers $6,000 below the poverty line.

History, including recent history in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Fransisco and Alberta, have proven that raising the minimum wage stimulates the economy as businesses thrive. This is because people are better able to spend money in their community rather than just struggle with basic necessities.

While we wait for our provincial government to enact a poverty reduction plan, our labour council is proud to contribute where possible with the largest donation in our history to the Food Bank of 1,680 cans of salmon and the largest group donation to the Coldest Night benefiting New Life Community Kamloops.

Canadian unions have also called on the federal government to formally and finally ban asbestos. In Canada, 2,000 people die each year from diseases caused by asbestos exposure. It is the leading cause of workplace-related death. Yet, imports of asbestos products, from construction materials to brake pads, are on the rise and buildings contaminated with asbestos remain unregistered, keeping the people who use them and work in them at risk.

A comprehensive ban will save lives and prevent the pain, suffering and heartache endured by too many today.

Good jobs, safe workplaces, fairness and equality are the basic ingredients of a better future. These are the things that union leaders like me believe in and work for every day. For us, it truly is a labour of love and it’s what motivates us to march in the streets and celebrate in the parks, playgrounds and community spaces across Canada this weekend.

Please join our celebration this Labour Day at McDonald Park, between 11 and 2, to enjoy great music, food, and prizes. There are lots of free activities for the kids including bouncy castles, face painting, soccer with the TRU Wolf Pack, science experiments with the teachers, dunk tank with the Steelworkers and so much more.

Happy Labour Day, Canada!

Wai to Go!

FullSizeRenderI recently had the distinct pleasure to meet a local entrepreneur, motivational speaker and author.  He had emailed me through the KDLC website, asking me if we would be interested in participating in a local fundraiser for the Kamloops Y Women’s Shelter.  I was definitely interested but lacked the spare time to respond that day, and promised myself I would get back to him as soon as I could.

But this gentleman was persistent, which you have to be when you are trying to raise money for any good cause. And within 24 hours, he decided not to wait for me and called to follow up.  At first I wasn’t sure what this was all about, but he carefully and patiently explained who he was and why he was calling.  And soon, without even having all of the answers, he had me hook, line and sinker on his fundraiser, “Swim all the Wai.”

It is a clever play off of his name, Wai Hung Ma, and he has challenged himself to swim 2 kms on August 19th to raise money for the Women’s Shelter.

For some, a 2 km swim might not seem like much, but for Wai, who has cerebral palsy, it is rather epic.  CP is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills and Wai has always pushed himself beyond these so-called limitations in everything he does.

As a motivational speaker in schools, hospitals and at conferences, Wai uses a power point presentation, voice recordings, and hand gestures to assist in communicating his message. And then in 2007, he published a compilation of his speeches into his first book called, “Breaking Limitations.”

He has developed a 20 minute DVD, “How to be a Better Bully,” aimed at kids in Grades 6 – 10 focusing on raising awareness and making better choices.  His second book in e-book format, “Motivation,” is based on Wai’s life and how you can find inspiration to live your life to the fullest just as he does.

And he has physically challenged himself as well previously training for and completing the Kamloops Cattle Drive. From his Facebook post:

In 1994 I pushed my body to the limit train my body to sit on horse for five to six hours a day to get myself for Kamloops Cattle Drive. The first day of the cattle drive I rode ten hours. The process of the training for the ride was painful and emotionally but I did it. 23 years later I find myself sitting here putting a support team together and pushing my body to the limit once again. Trying to swim 40 laps by midsummer and raise fund for a good cause. Man what I get my self into. I know it will be painful and emotional More details yet to come.”

Within a couple of days I was meeting him for coffee and he thought I was just there to talk to him about his fundraiser.  But in truth, I had to tell him how inspired he made me feel.  He’s already done so many things that I have never dreamt to do.  And he did it with the drive, determination and positive attitude of an Olympic athlete.

He has been training hard, increasing his swimming strength, coordination, and endurance at the Kamloops Y with the help of his coaches, and he posts his results on Facebook on a regular basis.

But this time, he isn’t satisfied with just challenging himself.  He laid out the challenge for all of us at the Labour Council.

He wants people to donate a MAXIMUM $5 (yeah, he got all Bernie Sanders like) to the Kamloops Y Women’s Shelter and it couldn’t be easier than clicking on the donate button here: http://www.kamloopsy.org/y_womens_shelter.htm

He wants us to share his Facebook event with members, friends, family and co-workers, so they can join the challenge too webcal://www.facebook.com/ical/u.php?uid=720511910&key=AQDWttEGHN3J0A7A

Or meet his challenge by swimming, running, walking, biking, climbing whatever you are able bodied to do, as a team or by yourself, but pledge to challenge yourself somehow on August 19th.

At the end of this challenge, Wai already knows his next steps.  He will write his third book on this experience and I am hoping that he will have an incredibly successful story to tell.

2016 Day of Mourning Calls for Asbestos Ban



Written by Harmony Raine

This April 28th, Canadian unions are calling for a comprehensive national ban on asbestos , a known killer that causes disease, suffering and death—all of it preventable. We want the federal government to pass legislation that outlaws the use, exportation, and import of asbestos.

More than 2,000 people die every year in Canada from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, such as mesothelioma,1 lung cancer and asbestosis.2 Asbestos exposure is the number one cause of occupational death in Canada, and since 1996, asbestos-related diseases have accounted for about a third of the workplace deaths recognized by workers’ compensation boards.

Deaths from mesothelioma increased by 60 percent between 2000 and 2012. Despite these disturbing facts, imports of items that contain asbestos, like brake pads and cement pipes, are on the rise (in 2014, imports of asbestos brake linings and pads hit a seven-year high, valued at $3.6 million that year alone). These products, as well as the lack of a formal registry of buildings known to contain asbestos, increase workers’ risk of exposure to a known killer.

Safer alternatives

This risk of asbestos exposure is preventable and completely unacceptable given that there are safe alternatives. Asbestos-free brake pads are manufactured in Guelph, Ontario, and asbestos-free ceiling tiles are produced in Langley, BC. Substituting these safer alternatives for deadly asbestos also creates Canadian jobs and support Canadian industries. Plans for new spending on infrastructure at all levels of government make it even more urgent that an asbestos ban be put in place now to guarantee that projects such as construction and upgrades to roads, transit stations, and other public places remain asbestos free.

National Day of Mourning Background

The National Day of Mourning, held annually on April 28, was officially recognized by the federal government in 1991, eight years after the day of remembrance was launched by the Canadian Labour Congress. The Day of Mourning has since spread to about 80 countries around the world and has been adopted by the AFL- CIO and the International Confederation of Free Trade. Every year since, local unions and labour councils have marked the day with ceremonies of remembrance for colleagues, friends and family who have been killed, injured, or suffered serious health consequences because of workplace-related hazards and incidents.

Each year, approximately 1,000 Canadian workers are killed on the job (more than 2.5 workers per day). In the 20 year period from 1995 to 2014, 18,039 people lost their lives due to work-related causes (an average of 918 deaths per year). Hundreds of thousands more are injured, and countless thousands become permanently disabled or die from work-related diseases.

Honouring these individuals not only demonstrates our respect and support for affected workers and their families, but is also a vital means of creating public awareness of workplace hazards and toxins. It helps us to reinforce our ongoing commitment to fighting for safer workplaces and demanding that negligent employers are held accountable.

Unions have already made a difference over the past year by reducing the hazards people face when working in confined spaces and helping to make the workplaces of Canadians (not just union members) much safer and healthier. Through labour councils, the BC Federation of Labour, and the Canadian Labour Congress, unions have also fostered workplace protections for victims of domestic violence, with changes to provincial laws moving forward in Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario. Recognizing that not all injuries are physical, unions are also taking on the stigma of mental illness and factoring it into what makes a workplace healthy and safe.

This year, Canada can take a giant step forward with a comprehensive ban on asbestos that will help to make all of our workplaces, homes and public spaces safer and healthier.


Kamloops Day of Mourning Ceremony

The Kamloops and District Labour Council will host a Day of Mourning ceremony On April 28, 2016 (6:00 pm) at St. Andrew’s on the Square and invites everyone to attend. The event will include guest speakers, a sidewalk march to lay the wreath, lighting of memorial candles, and music provided by Gail Ovington (piano), Jake Dogteron (trumpet), and Lorne Bailey (bagpipes).

Workers are also encouraged to observe a moment of silence and fly flags at half- mast at their worksites on April 28th.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

For more information about the Kamloops event, please contact Jim Waldie at waldiejames@gmail.com.

To learn more about the National Day of Mourning, visit dayofmourning.bc.ca. If you would like to leave a note in honour a fallen family member or worker, please visit the Day of Mourning commemoration site at dayofmourning.bc.ca. You can also request complimentary Day of Mourning decals and posters through this website.

1 Mesothelioma: mez-oh-thee-lee-oh-ma A rare form of cancer that develops from cells of the protective lining that covers the internal organs of the body. Signs and symptoms include shortness of breath due to fluid between the lung and the chest wall, chest wall pain and constitutional signs such as unexplained weight loss. Mesothelioma is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos (Sources: wikipedia.com and merriam- webster.com).

2 Asbestosis: az-bess-toe-sis A chronic inflammatory and scarring disease affecting the tissue of the lungs. People with the condition may experience severe shortness of breath and are at an increased risk for certain cancers, including lung cancer. Asbestosis specifically refers to fibrosis within the lung tissue from asbestos, and not scarring around the outside of the lungs. It is caused by the breathing in and retention of asbestos fibres (Sources: wikipedia.com and merriam-webster.com).

Kamloops Joins the National Call for $15


Written by Barbara Nederpel

On April 15th, the Kamloops District Labour Council, workers, students, progressive political parties, and concerned citizens in Kamloops, join the national call for a $15 minimum wage.

Around 40 people rallied at the North Shore transit exchange to demand that anyone who works full time should be able to live above the poverty line.

This national day of action is the first of its kind in Canada ad follows a groundswell movement to a $15 minimum wage that is sweeping across North America — Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco prompted a commitment from the entire state of California, as well as New York and the province of Alberta.

But here in British Columbia the minimum wage is the lowest in the country at $10.45. The only long term commitment by the BC Liberals ties any future increase to inflation. Where Alberta will reach $15 in 2018, at this rate, BC will not reach it until 2034.

This low rate means a full time worker will make $6,000 below the poverty line, despite working as hard and diligently as higher waged workers, and with no prospects of improvement in their situation unless they are able to secure better work.

However, the statistics of low wage workers paints a picture oDSC_0488f a huge portion of the population that likely will be in the same low wage situation for the long term.

Over half of a million people earn less than $15 an hour in BC— that’s one-quarter of all working people.

Eighty-two per cent are 20 or older. These are students drowning in debt load and studying full time, and young people in precarious work trying to stand on their own 2 feet.

Nearly two-thirds are women, many unable to access affordable, quality childcare, which may explain why we have amongst the worst child poverty rates in the country.

And 15,500 are over the age of 65. These are people who are forced to work because they are unable to pay for rent, food or medications otherwise.

Right winged economists decry that raising the minimum wage will hurt job creation and stall the economy. However, statistics have shown that it actually stimulates growth in local businesses and economy.

Why? When people are able to live above the poverty line, they can afford to spend every penny in their community.

Real job creation comes from people spending money in local business, not from big corporations who hide their money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes.

According to a study done by the BC Federation of Labour, 83% of British Columbians agree with increasing the rate to $15. Also in agreement are 5 economists at the International Monetary Fund.

Unfortunately, the BC Liberals do not agree, citing the need to protect a delicate economy while they tout that BC has the strongest economy in the country. But how can we have the strongest economy when we have the highest cost of living, the worst wage gap, and the worst child poverty?

A strong economy is one that works for everyone and a minimum wage increase to $15 is a vital step needed to get there.


2016 KDLC Bursary Application

The Kamloops and District Labour Council (KDLC) is offering four (4) $1,000 (one thousand dollar) bursaries (two in an academic field and two in a technical (trades) field of study) to students who are members or relatives of members of unions that are affiliated to, and in good standing with, the KDLC.

Who is eligible?

Members or relatives of members, of unions affiliated to and in good standing with, the KDLC.

Definition of a relative:  a spouse of same or opposite sex, parent, child, including step-child or foster child, brother, sister, grandchild, niece or nephew.

Applicants must be registered in a full-time or part-time post secondary program at a PUBLIC education institution (for technical field of study – must be sponsored from a recognized trade union) in 2016/2017.

All of the following information MUST be included in your submission to the KDLC Bursary Committee.

  1. Application form
  2. Transcript of your grade standing
  3. Confirmation of your enrollment in a PUBLIC education institution (for technical field of study – must be sponsored from a recognized trade union) in 2016/2017.  If you are waiting for enrollment confirmation, please send a letter stating you are waiting for the confirmation and if you are chosen for a bursary, the confirmation will have to be shown before you will receive the bursary.
  4. A double-spaced typed essay of 750-2000 words on the following topic.  This essay shall be the basis for awarding the bursary.

The Kamloops and District Labour Council (KDLC) was founded 60 years ago by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) to promote the rights of working people in the Thompson-Nicola region.  What impact has the KDLC had in meeting its mandate in our region during the past 60 years?

Please submit all of the above information to the address below before May 13, 2016.  The Committee will ONLY accept Bursary applications by mail to:

Bursary Committee
Kamloops and District Labour Council
Kamloops, BC
V2C 5K9

Please include: KDLC Bursary Application

KDLC Calls for Full Panel Review on Ajax


The Kamloops and District Labour Council called on federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to order a full panel review of the proposed Ajax mine project. The labour organization joined the City of Kamloops, the Thompson Nicola Regional District, and the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation who have also requested a more rigorous review.

KDLC represents over 11,000 unionized public and private sector workers in the Kamloops area voted without dissension to send a letter to the Environment Minister in hopes to encourage the review.

“Our labour organization supports good local, family supporting jobs especially when our unemployment rate is higher than the provincial average,” said President Barb Nederpel. “We also believe that a project of this size and location warrants the best scientific review possible so the results will be received by the public with greater confidence.”

The recent SLR Consulting report on KGHM’s 18,000 page application has left many in Kamloops doubting the completeness of KGHM’s application and wanting more details.

“Given the size of the mine and its proximity to Kamloops, it is baffling that the current federal environment minister wouldn’t immediately order a full panel review” said Nederpel. “We are asking this minister to side with the City of Kamloops, the TNRD, First Nations, and now the KDLC to order the review this project needs.”

KDLC has a proud record of supporting mining and miners in the Kamloops area and across the province.

“Labour will continue to stand with working people and will fight to ensure that mining jobs go first to local workers, British Columbians, and Canadians, who are in strong unions to ensure the best health and safety standards possible, and fair wages and benefits to support families and strengthen the local economy” said Nederpel. “We will not stand by and allow the exploitation of temporary foreign workers.”

Letter to Minister McKenna

Take a closer look at private laundry

DSC_0172The case of the laundry workers in Interior Health goes far beyond the superficial views of those who say this contracting out is a “no-brainer.” The new contract between Interior Health Authority (IHA) and Ecotex, resulting in 93 full time equivalents across the region, is cited to save $35 million over 20 years and that the employer will ease the transition of the workers into new opportunities. This is enough consolation for some people to not give it a second thought.

IHA says that they are going to ensure that they will find alternate employment or retraining for those who are displaced. Truth of the matter is that displacement language is a collective agreement right that was bargained by the Hospital Employees Union (HEU) to help protect members in cases such as these.

A retraining fund exists from what remains after HEU won the settlement of Bill 29 in the Supreme Court of Canada when the BC Liberals contracted out hospital support services in the lower mainland en masse resulting in the largest lay off of women workers in Canadian history. Another education fund came out of bargaining.

It is not the kind heart of the BC Liberals or of IHA that will ensure these workers have any options, but the persistent hard work of their union.

Regardless, when they displace these workers, they in turn displace other workers. At the end of the day, the only jobs created will be in a private facility in an undisclosed location (although expected to be Kelowna) at rock bottom wages, while family supporting jobs here in Kamloops will be lost.

What little we know of this contract is that it is over 20 very long years. It makes sense that this is required so that Ecotex can recuperate any of the costs of building a facility and purchasing the equipment needed. By the way, this is exactly the capital cost outlay that Interior Health references as the reason for contracting out in the first place. Except now, after 20 years, Ecotex will own the equipment, not the taxpayers.

But then one news report states the new contract is $11 million per year (CBC) while another (Nelson Star) states that laundry currently costs $10 million, it is hard to understand where they get $35 million in savings.

Ecotex themselves are trying to lighten the blow by stating that they will provide 90 – 100 full time, unionized jobs with competitive wages and benefits. However, it is believed that these Ecotex workers would be represented by CLAC which is hardly comforting.

CLAC, or the Christian Labour Association of Canada, is not a recognized union by the Canadian Labour Congress because it is often voluntarily organized by the corporation to protect the interests of the business, not the workers.

To demonstrate, language exists in CLAC agreements where grievances are resolved simply because the “decisive word resides with management” and other language ensures that the workers can never go on strike.

To make matters worse, in 2002, the BC Liberals altered the Employment Standards Act to exclude unionized employees from the provisions of the Act. Since then, CLAC “negotiated” agreements are frequently found to be below the Employment Standards floor in wages, overtime pay, annual vacations, and termination pay.

The stagnant contract number of $11 million per year becomes particularly alarming when the cost of doing business is not immune to inflation and profit margins are certain to be protected. Will the taxpayers be charged superfluous amounts as they have been in the lower mainland for regular services above the contract? Or will the workers absorb the impact through their wages?

If language exists to cap the contract costs, then it becomes a burden on the backs of the workers.

premieer_p3109287After an SFU economist, Marvin Shaffer concluded there is no business case to support the move and with so many questions around this contract, it is no wonder that the general public is highly suspicious of the over $127,000 in donations given to the BC Liberals by Ecotex.

And this is when the “no-brainers” state that this unskilled work deserves no-more than minimum wage. But these are real people trying to make ends meet for their families, not high school kids making a few extra bucks as the minimum wage argument goes, and at full time hours, would be living $6,000 below the poverty level.

And surely, with hospital laundry resulting in exposure to various bodily fluids, including blood, vomit, C-Difficile infested feces and when the injury rates to wrists, shoulders and backs are high, they deserve more than that. They deserve at least the wages and protections that they get now.

As the Minister of Health proudly walks through the new $89 million Clinical Service Building at Royal Inland Hospital, with the contracted out parking stalls, half of the top floor and other space available for retail and office rentals, and a state of the art amphitheater available to the public for rent, it’s a hard pill to swallow when we say our health care is “public” and only front line care matters.


Parity Now: “Because it’s 2016”

Article Submitted by KDLC executive member, Harmony Ráine, seen here presenting a donation by the KDLC to the Kamloops Women’s Resource Group Society to help them continue on their amazing work protecting and promoting women.

(*The word “women” includes anyone who identifies as a woman)

If you think women have achieved equality with men, you are mistaken. If you think women in Canada, the United States, or other parts of the developed world enjoy a reasonable level of equality with men, you are still wrong. Sadly, even in 2016, gender parity remains very elusive.

The 2015 Global Gender Gap Index ranked 145 countries on measures of health, education, economic, and political equality between men and women; and shockingly, Canada ranks only 30th in gender parity worldwide.

In order to assess equality, we must examine economic equality (or parity), because money provides people with the means to achieve other types of equality (ie: education, health care, and political participation). Highlighting the gendered wage gap makes glaringly apparent just how much inequality still exists between the sexes.

Canada’s low overall equality ranking is largely due to our massive wage gap:average-annual-earnings-gender-equality-gap-women

  • Canadian working women earn about $8,000 less per year than men doing an equivalent job
  • Based on average weekly wages of all Canadian workers (full- and part-time), women earned just 75.3% of men’s income (2014) – a wage gap that is double the global average
  • A gap this wide means that Canadian women must work more than 70 additional days each year to catch up to men, and
  • The average Canadian full-time working woman will lose more than $460,000 over a 40 year period due to pay disparity
  • Worldwide, many more women than men complete university and enter skilled professions; but women tend to be unable to reach the top of their professions in the same ways men do.
  • Canadian women make up half of Canada’s labour force, but comprise only 3 percent of Canadian CEOs and 15.9 percent of board seats in S&P / TSX 60 companies (2013). The political landscape is similar.

Importantly, these are not only well-paying occupations; but are high level, high profile positions that entail decision-making and policy implementation.

Women remain severely underrepresented in higher paying, male-dominated fields as well as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), senior executive positions, and roles in government. This is NOT because women are disinterested or “not well suited” to these careers, or because they are more interested in raising a family than making money. These are just excuses based on common stereotypes of women. Women have a wide range of interests, talents, and aptitudes and are willing and capable of taking on a variety of challenges.

Research shows that women are not encouraged – or are actively discouraged – from studying in certain fields or entering various trades and occupations by a plethora of family and social pressures, as well as conscious and unconscious biases and overt bullying and discrimination in schools, workplaces, and society. Women also face numerous, persistent structural barriers such as poor economic conditions and labour market prospects, inadequate enforcement of human rights legislation and labour laws, and weak provisions for maternity leaves and child care.
As the primary caregivers for children and other family members, women suffer economic losses that are generally unrecoverable, and that are never experienced or understood by most men. When women spend extended periods of their lives out of the paid workforce for maternity leaves and other family-related obligations, the enormous impact of lost wages is compounded by deficits in education, skills training, upgrading, mentoring, career advancement, and confidence – not to mention the high cost of daycare when they return to work.

Equality vs Equity posterEmployment equity programs and other measures intended to level the playing field have unfortunately become a necessary evil for women and other marginalized groups, who have been systematically denied equal opportunities to learn, earn, and survive in our supposed democratic, multicultural society. It is even sadder that already marginalized people who must take advantage of equity programs often experience backlash and resentment in both society and the workplace, accused of trying to “work the system” or “get special treatment.” To these comments, women can only reply that our “special treatment” consists of working longer for less money and recognition than men, while raising families; and likely losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the wage gap over our working lifetimes

Since about 2002 the global wage gap has remained almost stagnant. Experts suggest that at the present rate, the gap will take at least another 118 years to close completely.

In a seemingly progressive move, Canada’s newly elected Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attempted some partial redress for women’s lack of representation in the federal government by appointing women to 15 of 31 cabinet posts. When asked to explain his rationale for what has been dubbed “Canada’s first gender-balanced cabinet,” Trudeau simply replied, “Because it’s 2015.”

I am cautiously optimistic, but fear that Trudeau’s apparently sincere gesture might lack substance and any real plan to create sustainable equity in the lives, working conditions, and ongoing struggles of average Canadian workers and citizens – especially marginalized members.

Sheila Malcolmson, the NDP’s Status of Women Critic, asserts, “There’s no excuse for the fact that women in Canada continue to make substantially less than men” and is outraged that Canada is “lagging far behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to pay equity.” She states that the NDP will be calling on the Trudeau government to take action on the unacceptable wage gap between Canadian men and women, push the Liberals to “recognize pay equity as a right,” and implement recommendations made by a 2004 pay equity task force.

Because of massive, ongoing, courageous work by women, past and present feminist activists, and our allies, women have made monumental progress toward achieving better equity. These efforts cannot be understated, but we are not ‘there’ yet.

International Women’s Day was created to draw attention to gender inequalities and provide the impetus for consciousness-raising, dialogue, and activism that can lead to meaningful social change for women. The theme for International Women’s Day 2016 is “Pledge for Parity.” Pledging for parity can help women and girls to achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive cultures, and eradicate workplace bias, discrimination, resentment, and backlash.

Women’s equality doesn’t take anything away from men. “What’s good for women is good for business, is good for men, is good for families, is good for economies” – Deborah Gillis

Our mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, grandmothers, aunts, friends, co-workers, and fellow union activists deserve real equity and parity with men. Not just because it’s 2016 and it’s about time, but because it’s right.

To learn more about International Women’s Day 2016, visit: International Women’s Day

To Pledge For Parity, go to: Pledge for Parity