Release: Coalition calls on BC government for pay equity legislation

Press Release: Over 125 organizations and advocates demand BC enact pay equity legislation

March 2, 2023 – For Immediate Release

Vancouver, unceded Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) homelands – A coalition of more than 125 leading BC organizations, academics, and advocates are calling on the BC government to urgently enact pay equity legislation.

In an open letter addressed to Premier David Eby and key cabinet ministers, the coalition reminded the government that a system of pay equity — not pay transparency — is what will close the gender pay gap in BC.

Pay equity legislation was briefly enacted in BC in 2001 under a previous NDP government, but it was soon rolled back. Two decades later, BC is one of only a few jurisdictions in Canada without proactive pay equity legislation. As a result, the province is tied with Alberta for having the worst gender pay gap in the country. Women and people who are marginalized because of their gender are being systematically underpaid for work of equal value. This is especially true for those who are Indigenous, Black, racialized, and those who have a disability or are otherwise marginalized.

The coalition, which includes Indigenous organizations, workers’ rights group, labour unions, and law and policy advocates, says that BC needs intersectional pay equity legislation to tackle systemic pay discrimination that is harming the long-term economic security of women and marginalized people.

The BC government announced that it is developing pay transparency legislation, but coalition groups note that transparency alone will have limited impact. According to the open letter, pay transparency legislation would not require employers to guarantee the right to equitable pay or implement proactive measures to end systemic discrimination in pay. Instead, pay transparency will continue to place the burden on women and other equity-deserving groups to demand pay fairness from their employers.

The coalition shared a set of recommendations for pay equity legislation. They include a robust enforcement regime, transparency in all aspects of compensation and worker protections, and broad application across all sectors so that workers across BC, in workplaces of all sizes, are guaranteed equal pay for equal work.

Read the open letter and list of 128 co-signatories.

Quotes from signatories:

“The BC government’s proposed pay transparency legislation is simply not enough to address BC’s gender pay gap,” says Humera Jabir, staff lawyer at West Coast LEAF. “Pay transparency legislation might disclose the problem of unequal pay but pay equity legislation is needed to address it. Our message to the government is clear: BC needs pay equity laws to tackle discrimination in pay on the basis of gender, race, and other intersecting identities.”

“It’s discouraging that in 2023 we are still seeing such a significant gap in BC of basic pay equity for women, gender non-conforming, racialized and other equity-deserving groups. We need to see strong legislation beyond what is being proposed to uphold the rights of these groups and to assert equal pay for equal work. Economic justice must include an intersectional and equity-based lens, including strong legislation that backs this lens up in ways that materially affect pay,” says Rowan Burdge, Provincial Director at BC Poverty Reduction Coalition.

“Pay transparency is an integral first step in recognizing ongoing salary inequities largely experienced by equity-deserving groups,” says Helaine Boyd, Executive Director of Disability Alliance BC. “As an organization whose mission is to support people, with all disabilities, to live with dignity, independence and as equal and full participants in the community, we greatly hope that pay transparency will be followed by a pay equity system that ushers in greater compensation and inclusion for people with disabilities, including those with intersecting barriers, in BC’s workforce.”

“Everyone deserves the equal opportunity to thrive, and at its core, that’s exactly what pay equity is about,” says Kevin McCort, President & CEO of Vancouver Foundation. “Our province needs intersectional pay equity legislation to protect workers’ rights to equitable pay, including women and anyone who faces discrimination in the workplace. It is a critical step in ensuring BC is a place where every worker is valued.”

“Progressive values demand progressive actions,” argues Sussanne Skidmore, President of British Columbia Federation of Labour. “British Columbia’s government leads Canada in so many ways, but it’s time we caught up on the fight for wage equality. Pay transparency is a necessary step, but it’s only the beginning. Workers deserve robust, intersectional pay equity legislation that includes and empowers all workers, accounting for gender, Indigeneity, race, ability and sexual orientation. Let’s set the standard for Canada and pave the way for a fair and just future.”

“Financial dependence is a significant contributor to gender-based violence. Pay transparency and, more importantly, pay equity is critical to ensuring the safety of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” says Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of Battered Women’s Support Services. “The reality of the gender pay gap, even further exacerbated across race, means that Indigenous, Black, newcomer and racialized women are most likely to earn less than men in similar jobs, are most likely to be minimum wage earners in the province, and are most likely to retire with smaller pensions in older age which cements a lifetime of the racial feminization of poverty. We cannot ignore how unpaid caregiving responsibilities disproportionately fall on women, which further impacts economic security. All of this leaves victims of violence with even fewer choices, forcing them to remain in violent situations.”

“Everyone should be able to participate in the labour market with dignity and have their work valued,” says Colin Druhan, Executive Director of Pride at Work Canada / Fierté au travail Canada. “But inequities exist for a range of equity-deserving groups in BC and across Canada. At Pride at Work Canada we understand how these challenges are deepened for 2SLGBTQIA+ people due to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. In Canada, heterosexual men have, on average, the highest annual income, which is nearly twice what bisexual women earn per year. According to Trans PULSE Canada, nearly 90% of trans people in Canada have at least some college or university education. But more than half earn $30,000 per year or less. These dire discrepancies are results of systemic inequities that must be addressed by employers and governments alike for Canada to meet its full economic potential.”

“Ensuring equal pay for work of equal value is a crucial step towards achieving economic justice for families now entrenched below the poverty line in BC,” says Viveca Ellis, Executive Director of the Centre for Family Equity (formerly know as Single Mothers’ Alliance). “The majority of children and youth living below the poverty line (59%) in BC are in predominantly female-led lone-caregiver supported families living on fixed incomes or marginalized by precarious work, with high numbers of Indigenous, Black and racialized mothers and caregivers among them. Child, youth, and family poverty in BC is intimately tied to the crisis of women’s poverty, which is driven by systemic workplace inequality and the disenfranchisement of mother workers. By implementing pay equity, BC can take a significant step towards reducing income inequality for women and mothers in the workplace.”


Media contact:

Jean Kavanagh, Senior Media Specialist for the Canadian Center of Policy Alternatives, BC Office, 604-802-5729

Available for Comment:

  • Humera Jabir, staff lawyer, West Coast LEAF
  • Sussanne Skidmore, President, BC Federation of Labour
  • Shannon Daub, Director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, BC Office
  • Pamela Charron, Interim Executive Director, Worker Solidarity Network
  • Marjorie Griffin Cohen, Research Associate and Feminist Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, BC Office