Fight for pay equity
On November 27, 2013, the Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM) filed an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against the government of Ontario. This legal action, brought by the AOM on behalf of close to 800 midwives, alleges that midwives have experienced a gender penalty in their pay set by the government for almost two decades.
Unfortunately, midwives are among the thousands of Ontario women stuck in the gender wage gap, earning far less than their male counterparts in comparable professions.
Female-dominated professions face a historical lack of pay equity. In recent years, much has been done in Ontario to try to resolve gender-related pay inequities. But midwifery has fallen through the cracks. Midwives’ work has not been valued or appropriately compensated relative to the skills, effort, responsibility and working conditions of other health-care professionals paid by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC). The government claims it does not need to do so because midwives are paid through contracts rather than as employees. To devalue midwifery services is to devalue the people to whom midwives provide services: clients and families.
Midwives applaud the government for investments in midwifery infrastructure, including in midwifery education at three universities and most recently in two birth centres (Toronto and Ottawa). It’s a smart investment. Midwifery is wildly popular, provides quality care for women and value to the health-care system. However, government can no longer ignore pay equity for midwives. Not complying with pay equity is discriminatory and must be rectified. It is imperative that midwives, as front-line health-care workers, are paid equitably and fairly.
Midwives would like nothing more than to resolve our human rights claim, but we cannot do so unless government:
· acknowledges the pay equity gap midwives have faced for the last 20 years;
· takes steps to close the pay equity gap; and
· provides a mechanism to ensure pay equity for midwives is maintained in the future.
It has been more than two years since our application was filed. In the fall of 2015, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care invited the AOM to enter into settlement talks. As a result of settlement talks ending without resolution, the AOM has returned to the tribunal with its legal counsel to resolve this issue.
Midwives had hoped that the government's overall commitment to close Ontario's gender pay gap, which stands at 31.5%, could have been translated into action to close the midwifery pay gap. But this has not been the case. We are puzzled that, on the one hand, Premier Wynne mandated her Minister of Labour and Minister Responsible for Women's Issues to come up with solutions to close the pay gap, while on the other hand, the MOHLTC denies midwives are entitled to a pay equity process and adjustments to remedy their inequitable pay. Instead, this government will spend tax dollars on expensive and drawn out legal process to fight against pay equity for midwives.
Ontario midwives are united in our call for government to end its current funding and compensation practices because they produce a pay equity gap and systemic discrimination in compensation – a discrimination we experience every time we receive payment for our work. Our human rights are being violated. We believe unwaveringly in the principle that women's work should not be underpaid and undervalued. We have returned to the tribunal to defend that principle.
The decision to return to the HRTO was not made lightly. In fact, we do so at great cost to us as individuals and with profound disappointment that our human rights have been neglected and denied for so long. As midwives, we have been, and will continue to be a driving force in the movement for pay equity.
As midwives continue to present our case at the tribunal, we will still work to provide Ontario families with excellent midwifery care. We will continue to work with communities who have come to count on us for care, including refugee, uninsured and Aboriginal communities. We will continue to work with the MOHLTC in its effort to transform primary care in Ontario and to develop a low-risk maternal and newborn care strategy for the province.
To learn more, visit the pay equity frequently asked questions page and watch the following video, produced by the AOM for Equal Pay Day 2016.