Elizabeth Brandeis: Government increases midwives’ responsibility, refuses to implement pay equity
The Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM) filed an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against the provincial government on behalf of close to 800 midwives, alleging that midwives have experienced a gender penalty in their pay set by the government for almost two decades.
In June 2016, legal counsel from both sides made opening remarks and between September and January, hearing dates are set where witnesses from the AOM, the Ministry, as well as expert witnesses, will be examined. In a series of blogs, the AOM will keep members and the public informed about the proceedings at the Tribunal.
When AOM President Elizabeth Brandeis joined the midwifery profession in 2003, midwives’ specialized skills were increasing, along with their non-clinical responsibilities. In 2007, midwives were authorized to obtain certification allowing them to act in the role of surgical first assist at caesarean sections. When midwives are able to assist at C-sections, it helps keep birth services in small, rural communities; however, most midwives are not paid for providing this service. More data and reporting requirements and accountabilities have also added to midwives’ workloads, but they were not compensated for this work, either.
In the two decades since midwifery became regulated, there has been a significant increase in the complexity, diversity and vulnerability of midwifery clients. For Brandeis and other midwives, ensuring that clients have the support they need may involve advocating for housing and food security, accessing mental health services or helping survivors of domestic abuse develop safe exit strategies. This work is challenging and the stakes are high.
In 2012, as the AOM’s Vice President, Brandeis became actively involved in government relations and funding negotiations with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. While the Ministry praised the work of midwives and the role they play in the health-care system, the Ministry insisted that it didn’t have the money to increase midwives’ compensation. When asked about compensation and pay equity, the Ministry pointed to money it had invested in growing the Midwifery Education Program and piloting birth centres, but refused to address the issue of pay equity. Interestingly, the government did find the funding to give wage increases to male-dominated engineers at Ontario Power Generation, the Ontario Provincial Police and corrections workers.
Despite a clear recommendation from the Courtyard Report (a review of midwifery compensation funded by the Ministry which recommended an immediate one-time equity adjustment of 20%), the Ministry refused to close the gender wage gap for midwives.
Brandeis and midwives across the province were dismayed by the Ministry’s complete neglect of the gender-based wage gap in midwifery work and turned to the Human Rights Tribunal to seek a remedy for this infringement on their human rights.
You can read Brandeis’ affidavit here.