The Gender Wage Gap Is Real

This past year has been one of women making their voices heard. The #MeToo movement has brought attention to sexual harassment and assault, but it has also put a spotlight on the wage gap.

The wage gap is very real for women across Canada and it has been for a long time. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada clearly show that full-time working women earn 26 per cent less than full-time working men.

This is even worse for women of colour and Indigenous women. Racialized women earn 62 cents for every man’s dollar and Indigenous women earn 46 cents.

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This gap can be difficult for some people to get their heads around. Many claim it is a myth, stating that the women they work with make the same as them for the same job or that they don't know any women who have had to deal with issues of pay inequity.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the pay gap that persist despite the force of the #MeToo movement and the statistics that are found year after year on the gap. Here are just a few of them.

Women Choose Lower Paying Jobs

Fields where women outnumber men such as retail, early childhood educators or cashiers, tend to be much lower paying jobs. It has been called ‘Occupational Segregation’, referring to the ‘striking tendency of many industries to be very heavily dominated by one gender or the other.’ It also shows how little value ‘women’s work’ has in society with occupations related to caregiving or teaching paying much less.

Women Choose to Have Babies and Take Time Off

It is true that women take time off to have children and often have the responsibility of caring for children at home, but research has shown that the pay gap exists right from the beginning of women’s careers. The lack of affordable child care in Canada also has a huge impact on the pay gap, causing mothers to stay out of the workforce longer.

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There Has Been Huge Progress

Employers can pay women less, choose not to hire them or not promote them because it is the norm. A study found that women earned more than half of the university degrees and 40 per cent of the MBAs handed out in North America, but only three per cent of Fortune 500 companies are run by female CEOs. Despite many more women attending post secondary and entering fields that are usually dominated by men, there are still very few women in leadership roles. And all of this is changing at a snail’s pace, with Oxfam estimating that it will be 135 years until women and men are paid equally.


We Need to Fix the Income Gap for Visible Minorities, Immigrants and Indigenous Workers

When most people think of diversity in a city they tend to picture high populated major cities such as Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary. But you should actually be picturing the northern Alberta city of Fort McMurray.

Fort McMurray is one of the most diverse cities in the country. There are more than 80 languages spoken in the region, and according to statistics Canada 21 per cent of residents are immigrants and 26 per cent are visible minorities. These numbers are probably much larger as the ‘short-term commuter workforce’ is not counted.

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This is something that is celebrated by local residents and Alberta, but there is a disturbing trend in Fort McMurray that is reflecting a wider problem across Canada.

A recent study by statistics Canada has found that the income gap between visible minorities, Indigenous or recent immigrants and the rest of Canada remains large, with the gap only narrowing by 2 per cent for Indigenous and recent immigrants and widening by 1 per cent for visible minorities between 2006 to 2016.

In Fort McMurray, visible minorities had a median income of $50,735, while non-visible minorities had a median income of $106,696. First Nations individuals had a median income of $46,925.

Experts pointed out that labour reform, including more access to unionization, is key. In Alberta alone, immigrants earned $3.49/hour more with a union, and Aboriginal workers earned $8.47/hour more.

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Not only are you going to get a fair wage with a union, you also know you have someone to stand up to discrimination in the workplace.

Making sure that this gap is made smaller is not just important to visible minorities and Indigenous workers, but also to all Canadians.

Want a Better Wage? Join a Union.

It is a fact that union members earn more than non-union, but what is not talked about as much is that unions raise the wage for non-union workers as well.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute in the United States found that the typical full-time private-sector worker, union or non-union, would be making thousands of dollars more a year now if unions were as popular as they were a few decades ago.

Canada is much the same way. When unions fight for higher wages for their members, that sets the bar high. This wage standard means that employers have to meet that in order to compete with what unions offer. Beyond wages this also includes benefits and working conditions.

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The study found that unions raise wages of unionized workers in the U.S. by 20 per cent and reduce wage inequality overall because they raise wages more for low- and middle-wage workers than for higher-wage workers.

Union workers in Canada have a wage advantage as well with union members earning $5.28 per hour more than non-union, putting an extra $43.2 billion into the local economy according to the Canadian Labour Congress.

The findings from the EPI study pointed to the conclusion that union decline has also lead to greater income inequality overall. In Canada, this inequality is especially concentrated in our cities, where more than 80 per cent of us live.

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Unions built the middle class and guarantee their members good wages, collective bargaining and health care benefits. By having strong unions in Canada, we have people looking out for fair labour laws and equality in our country.

Who Will Benefit Most From A Minimum Wage Increase?

Raising the minimum wage in Canada is a polarizing issue to say the least.

Business owners are worried about the cost, with CEO’s speaking out against the raise. The latest being Eric R. La Fleche of Metro Inc and Loblaws' CEO Galen Weston.

According to the Huffington Post, Weston ‘complained to investors about the irritating cost of paying its workers a living wage’  However, Loblaws doubled its profits last year.

But others feel that it is time for those working in low wage jobs to be making more, with several provinces committed to raising the minimum wage.

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Chances are you know at least one person who is working a part-time or low wage job or you yourself have. The research shows that the majority of those who work in those jobs are workers of colour or women.

According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation almost 70 per cent of part-time workers are women and 60 per cent of minimum-wage earners are female. They also found that most women facing poverty in Canada are working, but ‘can’t earn enough to lift themselves out of poverty because they are clustered in these low-paid and precarious jobs.’

Workers of colour earn 81 cents for every dollar and there is an even wider gap for workers of colour that are women, Indigenous or have accessibility issues.

Labour laws and raising the minimum wage are both ways to address this issue and another tool is unionization.

Unions have lead the way when it comes to fair wages and good jobs for all Canadians including women and workers of colour.

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In Alberta alone, union women earn $7.76/hour more than non-union workers and Indigenous union workers earned $8.47/hour more than non-union.

Besides fair wages, union workers also have safer workplaces, health benefits and fair scheduling – all things lacking in many low-wage and precarious positions.

While raising the minimum wage is important, unionization has become an important part of helping workers across Canada.

Survival Jobs Hidden in Canada

For the last few months’ job numbers in Canada have been on the rise. This is definitely a positive thing or the province of Alberta where we have experienced a large recession.

Alberta's unemployment rate has been steadily declining and currently sits at 7.4 per cent, dropping 1 per cent in just the last few months.

While many are cheering, the truth is that the numbers actually hide a growing problem – the rise in ‘survival jobs’ or what is also referred to as precarious work.

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A recent article by CBC news pointed out that these jobs are still counted in job numbers released in statistics. A job is just counted as a number. No one takes into account job quality, and this is hurting our economy.

The majority of people in these types of jobs are youth, women and racialized workers. Meaning that already marginalized groups have no protections in their jobs and don’t have a lot of ability to move up the ladder into meaningful work.

They become trapped.

Last year the federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau told Canadians that they should get used to this type of ‘job churn’, but not all members of the Liberal Government feel that way.

In a recent interview with Rabble Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said that she hopes to ‘put an end to precarious work abuses', such as part-time workers being paid less than full.

She is also hoping other provinces will follow her lead.

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Most of the issues associated with this type of work tend to come up because workers have no one to stand up for them in the workplace. If they do bring up an issue, it can be easily dismissed or the employee can simply be fired.

In these precarious jobs people lack the ability to join a union, which can improve not only the quality of life at work, but home life as well. Unionized employees have better wages, more job security, benefits and the comfort of knowing they have support in the workplace.

So next time you see job numbers rising, be sure to look beyond just the stats and think about those who are left surviving paycheque to paycheque with precarious employment.

Alberta Minimum Wage Update: Province will raise minimum wage by $1 in October

The battle to delay the minimum wage hike in Alberta rages on, with a sharp line drawn between small business lobbyists and workers’ rights groups.

Restaurants Canada recently launched an online petition to push back the government’s plan to raise minimum wage; a new survey by the same group revealed more than half of respondents agreed “the implementation of a $15 minimum wage should be delayed.”

But on June 30 it was announced that Alberta's minimum wage will rise by $1 to $12.20 per hour on Oct. 1. This will mark the very first of a three-staged increase that will reach a $15 minimum wage by 2018.

Those who support the plan for fairer wages are very pleased with the announcement.

Alberta Labour Minister Christina Gray said that the government ‘believes that the minimum wage for full-time work should at least allow people to meet their basic needs.’

As of May 2016, Alberta’s minimum wage was officially raised from $10.20 (the lowest in Canada) to $11.20 per hour. Gray stated that increased minimum wages will “reduce poverty, lower the burden on social programs, increase worker satisfaction and lower employee turnover.”

Those who were hoping to delay the plan argued it’s not the right time to increase employee wages. Between the economic recession and the high number of job vacancies in Alberta (the province’s jobless rate rose to 7.2 per cent this year), groups like Restaurants Canada continue to be fearful the plan will result in further job losses across the province.

Local labour market data showed that almost 17,000 Alberta jobs could evaporate this year, a number almost four times higher than anywhere else in Canada.

Non-unionized workers can be at a higher risk that unionized employees; not only do they make an average of 15 per cent less in wages, but are sometimes forced to work precarious jobs with unstable hours and no benefits.

But labour minister Gray and others like the Alberta Federation of Labour are optimistic, and support the NDP government’s promise to achieve a $15 per hour minimum by 2018.



Low-paying jobs and precarious work vacancies rising

It’s been a rough few years for Albertans.

Between consecutive recessions and the financial impacts of the Fort McMurray wildfire, workers are facing the tightest labour markets seen in almost 30 years.

In 2014, Alberta had the highest job vacancy rate in the country. Since the wildfire, the province’s unemployment rate has jumped from 7.2 to 7.8 per cent, with more than 24,000 jobs lost.

Despite these disheartening numbers, Alberta still has the highest job vacancy rate in Canada, with Banff-Jasper-Rocky Mountain House the top of the vacancy chain with a rate of 3.6 per cent.

But if there are so many jobs available, why are unemployment rates skyrocketing?

A recent study revealed that most in-demand jobs today are low-paying and in areas like the foodservice and retail industries. Out of all the job vacancies in Canada, 14 per cent “were for retail salespeople and food counter workers.”

Teamsters 362 has and continues to provide support for those who have lost their jobs or aren’t earning enough. In an economic crisis where the only jobs available are low-wage, unions can fight for better hours and higher wages.

Local 362 also protects the rights of young union workers who, in many cases, are only able to get low-level or precarious work. According to another study, “young union workers earn $4.92/hr more than non-unionized workers.”

As long as the Alberta economy stays as is, work grows more precarious and more unstable. In times of uncertainty, Teamsters is there to help Alberta workers gets the wages they deserve.


Alberta NDP Government And The Minimum Wage Debate

When the NDP won the Alberta Provincial election, the entire country seemed pretty surprised – this was the first change in power in Alberta since 1971.

With the change came a lot of promises to Albertans, perhaps most controversial of all was the pledge to raise the minimum wage to $15 within three years.

And heading into 2016, the controversy has returned with an internal document that was obtained by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. CFIB spokesman Richard Truscott said the document warns of job losses due to the hike.

According to the Calgary Herald, the note also said that ‘more research needs to be done’ before raising the wage and ‘Alberta will essentially be sailing into uncharted waters at this point.’

With low oil prices in the province, many groups, business owners and concerned Albertans have called for the NDP government to re-evaluate the decision.

Alberta lost 63,500 jobs in the first eight months of this year, according to government data.

Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP have said from the beginning that the raise would ‘create more jobs and ensure workers in the province receive a living wage.’

In October, the NDP raised the minimum wage from $10.20 per hour, the lowest minimum wage in the country along with Saskatchewan, to $11.20 per hour which makes it the third highest.

Those in favour of the increase have said that ‘cost of living has outstripped wage growth’ and a living wage would allow workers to cover basic human needs. They pointed out that raising the minimum wage would have positive effects for the overall community.

Jobs that are not unionized in the province can sometimes be precarious, with unstable hours and wages and no benefits. Those who are hired on a contract basis, and have no one to back them up when it comes to layoffs may see their jobs go first in the struggling economy.

Notley did say last week that the government may not raise the minimum wage to $15 and hour by 2018 if the economy remains as it is.

“Going forward we’re going to continue to get the best information we can. We’re also going to evaluate the state of the economy,” Notley said.

NDP Plans To Raise Alberta's Minimum Wage To $15

Fifteen is a number that have been on a lot of Albertan’s minds since the NDP won the provincial election on May 5. New Premier Rachel Notley recently announced that she is going to follow through with her plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 within three years.

Currently Albertan’s minimum wage is $10.20 and is tied with Saskatchewan for the lowest in the country.

“We will be meeting as a cabinet to discuss rolling out that process,” Notley said of the minimum-wage plan on May 20. “Without question that was in our platform and we intend to move forward on it.”

While some are excited about the potential raise in wage, others say it could be damaging to the economy and small businesses.

Amber Ruddy, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said in an interview with Metro Calgary that the $15 pledge ‘could do heavy damage to the bottom lines maintained by small business owners.’

“Large jumps in the minimum wage tend to hurt the very people they’re supposed to be helping out,” she said in the article.

She noted that owners would potentially have to cut hours, hire fewer employees, potentially even eliminate existing positions and look towards increased automation.

 Fast Facts About Minimum Wage:

  • The general minimum wage in Alberta is $10.20 per hour, except for employees who serve liquor as part of their employment where the minimum wage is $9.20 per hour.
  • On Sept. 1, 2014 Alberta increased the minimum wage from $9.95 to $10.20 an hour and the liquor server wage was increased from $9.05 to $9.20 an hour.
  • Alberta was the last province to hit the $10 general minimum wage barrier.
  • The highest minimum wage in the country is currently in Nunavit at $11 an hour.
  • Only around 1.5 per cent of Albertans earn the minimum wage, while the national average is at 6.8 percent.