The letter below was sent to Premier Kathleen Wynne on September 27 from Dr. Frankie Cachon, a contract faculty member at the University of Windsor and Chair of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee.
Dear Premier Wynne,
I am a contract faculty member at the University of Windsor and Chair of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee. I am heartened that your government is responding to the widespread desire for decent working conditions and wages expressed by Ontarians with Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act.
The commitment to the principle of equal pay for work of equal value for part-time, contract, and temporary workers in Bill 148 is a step in the right direction. However, the legislation needs to be strengthened to ensure that it will be effective. Current loopholes and broad exceptions will allow employers to avoid paying their contract and part-time employees equally.
As Bill 148 moves through second reading, we recommend that the following changes be made:
- The equal pay provision be amended to expand the scope of comparable work by replacing the language of “substantially the same” with “similar” or “of equal value”. Historically, the proposed language of work that is “substantially the same” has been interpreted narrowly when it comes to protecting women from unequal pay due to sex discrimination, enabling employers to manipulate minor job duties to maintain unequal pay. Replacing the language of “substantially the same” with work that is “similar” or “of equal value” would help avoid the use of minor differences to justify unequal pay.
- The exceptions in the proposed equal pay provision for “quantity or quality of production” and “any other factor” be removed. The scope for exceptions in the proposed legislation is too wide. Experiences with existing pay equity legislation have proven that, to be effective, the language needs be tightened. Historically, “other factors” has been interpreted loosely – even to include an employer’s wage structure – when women have challenged gender pay discrimination. It is crucial that exceptions to the equal pay entitlement be limited to objective factors, such as seniority and merit.
- The definition of seniority based on hours worked be removed. Defining seniority based on hours worked rather than date of hire will entrench inequality between full-time and part-time workers, defeating the intent of these equal pay protections.
Equal pay for work of equal value is an important issue for Ontario’s contract faculty. For more than a decade, universities have been hiring more and more professors on short-term contracts, with low wages, no job security, and limited access to benefits. Estimates suggest that since 2000, the number of courses taught by sessional contract faculty has doubled at Ontario universities. This is also an issue at Ontario colleges where over 80 per cent of faculty are working on contract. Sessional contract professors are paid significantly less than their full-time colleagues for teaching the same courses.
If the equal pay provisions are not strengthened, women and racialized workers, who are over-represented in part-time, contract and temporary employment, will continue to be left behind. We know that in the college system over 75 per cent of the lowest paid contract faculty are women, and research shows about two thirds of contract faculty at Ontario universities are women. Strong equal pay protections in Bill 148 are a crucial step towards closing the gender wage gap.
For these reasons, I urge you to remove these loopholes, and provide Ontarians with access to strong equal pay protections. As Bill 148 progresses through the legislature, OCUFA will be engaging with the process, and we will be watching to see whether this government is actually serious about decent work and fairness for Ontario workers.
Chair, OCUFA Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee
Hon. Kevin Flynn, Minister of Labour
Hon. Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development
MPP Peggy Sattler, NDP Critic for Advanced Education, Skills and Development
MPP Lorne Coe, PC Critic for Post-Secondary Education