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Editorial: Pay equity problems

Law Times reports that three Legal Aid Ontario lawyers have filed a pay equity gap complaint to Ontario’s Pay Equity Commission, based on the fact that legal aid lawyers are mostly female.

Their complaint says LAO must conduct a job evaluation review that would look at whether its lawyers’ pay is in line with that of their male counterparts, in other similar legal roles. The pay equity issue is a pain point in the overall shaky relationship between LAO lawyers and the organization’s management. For more than three years, LAO lawyers have unsuccessfully attempted to gain the right to collective bargaining.

To make matters worse, a similar complaint over pay equity was already rejected, with the commission stating the job class of staff lawyer was gender-neutral. So far, ongoing pressure on the provincial government about the right to unionize has not yielded any fruit. Feelings of displeasure about working conditions and pay persist. So how to improve the lot of those who often take on the most trying cases? 

In terms of improving labour conditions for LAO lawyers, the devil is in the details. Ontario’s Pay Equity Commission says, “Pay Equity is equal pay for work of equal value.”

“The Pay Equity Act requires employers to pay female jobs at least the same as male jobs if they are of comparable value,” says the commission.

“The value of jobs is based on the levels of skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions involved in doing the work. The Pay Equity Act requires employers to pay female jobs at least the same as male jobs if they are of comparable value.”

And therein lies the rub.

The ongoing charge by LAO lawyers to obtain collective bargaining rights is sure-footed, and their chosen representative says unionization would mean they would become “entitled to information necessary to enforce the protections they have under pay equity legislation.”

But the pay equity fight looks like an uphill climb, for now.

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