The importance of organizing, advocating, and legislating
Pay inequity remains a problem in many provinces in Canada, and New Brunswick is one of them. The barriers to achieving pay equity are complex; however, one of the most evident solutions is legislation. Megan Mitton, MLA for the Memramcook-Tantramar district, emphasized the need for the government to continue “righting the wrongs of historically undervaluing work that’s traditionally done by women.”
When asked why pay equity legislation in the private sector is necessary, Mitton stated that “it was deemed important enough to be implemented in the public sector, so that tells us that the government thought it should be implemented.” She added that legislation in the public sector has significantly impacted women-dominated fields, such as educational assistants. For other women-dominated fields, such as care work, it is not only about paying workers fairly but also about the people who are receiving the care. Private care work employees have been increasingly facing issues surrounding working conditions and wages. “We know we have recruitment and retention issues, [and] it’s going to continue unless we legislate it,” Mitton stated.
The process of legislating pay equity policies within the private sector is not simple. Additionally, the elected government ultimately has the most ability to table bills and make legislation. “It matters who is elected,” Mitton stated, adding that there is value in civil society. “We need legislation sometimes to correct things that happen in the markets, and that’s an important role that government can play,” she said. However, issues such as pay inequity in the private sector do not appear to be of high priority to Premier Blaine Higgs, as the right to pay equity in the private sector does not exist.
Mitton stated that while pay equity legislation can be an important part of addressing inequities in our society, “that’s not where the work ends.” She added that “the government can and should fully implement gender-based analysis plus (GPA+), where they are looking at how all legislation, all policies, [and] how their budget impacts different people.” GBA+ takes an intersectional approach to acknowledge that people shouldn’t be treated all the same, rather people require different treatment depending on their social location. “So how do we design things for the most vulnerable, the most marginalized, the most excluded, because those things are generally going to be good for other people too,” Mitton said.
While there have been some discussions in government surrounding gender-based analysis plus, Mitton said “it’s not been applied widely, it’s not doing everything it should be and it’s underwhelming what’s happened so far.” While it is true that governmental structures adjust to societal issues in an incremental fashion, Mitton believes “we can do better, so we should do better.”
Upon being asked about how conversing and advocating for issues such as pay equity makes a difference, if at all, Mitton stated that “it does make a difference; if there is pressure from a larger number of people, then it can put pressure on the government to do something differently.” She added that organizing, in groups and electorally, is important because “there’s strength in numbers.”
Ultimately, the role and responsibility of the government are to address problems in society and respond to them with legislation and appropriate policies. “What it comes down to is making choices,” added Mitton. “I once read a book about financial and economic systems that was titled ‘It doesn’t have to be this way’, and that has stuck with me for over a decade,” she said.
Mitton concluded that “we are making a choice to have mostly women in certain professions, subsidize the economy, subsidize their employers by being underpaid for the work that they do.” This is a choice, and we can make better choices.