Fredericton (March 8, 2013) – On this International Women’s Day, CUPE New Brunswick calls on our governments to step up and be accountable for protecting and advancing women’s rights.  Observance of March 8th began over a hundred years ago to mark the struggles for decent working conditions and voting rights for women in Europe and North America.

”We are inspired by the hard-fought struggles for equality of those who came before us,” says Marilyn MacCormack, Chair of the CUPE NB Women’s Committee.  “But much inequality remains. We also know that what is gained can be lost.  Women and men must continue their efforts and keep a close eye on what governments are doing to help or harm equality,” affirms MacCormack.

“Economic inequality is still a fact of life for women in 2013,” notes Odette Robichaud, Vice-President for Women’s Issues for CUPE NB. “Equal pay for work of equal value is an internationally recognized human right, but women still earn less on average than men. New Brunswick’s public sector pay equity law has been in effect since April 2010, but the government is dragging its heels on implementation.  After more than a year of efforts, the job evaluation process is now stalled for two CUPE locals representing court stenographers and education support staff.  It’s time for the province to set up an effective Pay Equity Bureau that will oversee enforcement of the law,” asserts Robichaud.

Pay equity legislation is also needed to protect the more than 100,000 women who are employed in the private sector in New Brunswick. That’s two-thirds of all women workers in the province and it includes many who provide important government mandated and publicly subsidized care services.

“Society still doesn’t recognize the real value of women’s caring work,” says Thérèse Duguay, President of CUPE Local 4598, representing Red Cross home support workers. “Home support workers earn low wages, have no guarantee of enough hours to earn a decent living, receive a pittance for travel costs and most of us have no sick leave, pension plan or other benefits.”

“It was disappointing to see the results of the provincial government’s pay equity exercise for employees in the child care, home support and transition house sectors,” continues Duguay.  Only three of eight job classifications will see any salary increases, with small pay adjustments spread over five years. The methodology used must be reviewed by outside experts so that these kind of female-dominated jobs can be properly evaluated,” affirms Duguay.

“Achieving social and economic equality for women requires focused government action” says Sandy Harding, Vice-President of CUPE NB.  “Child care is one of the essential building blocks.  We need a quality, affordable non-profit child care program for all children. Many of the families with young children who receive the $100 monthly child care benefit from the federal government have a terrible time finding and paying for child care. It is also essential to provide adequate income support and social services for the unemployed, persons with disabilities and those with family care responsibilities.  These investments will benefit society as a whole” notes Harding.

“More work is also needed when it comes to male violence against women and girls,” adds Harding.  “The problem makes headlines around the world and has been identified as the priority issue for this week’s meeting of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.  It is still far too common here at home. Some women are at higher risks than others for being abused or killed, including our Aboriginal sisters, women with disabilities and young women. We need large-scale public messaging and targeted measures to eliminate and prevent it,” says Harding.

“Now, more than ever, men and women in this province need to unite to demand equality,” states Daniel Légère, CUPE NB President.  “Almost two years have gone by since the Alward Government axed the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women. We are still waiting for the creation of a new independent body with the necessary resources to monitor government action and work for change.  Let’s not forget that the federal government’s attack on social justice activism started with the defunding of women’s advocacy groups in 2006. That has made the situation worse,” concludes Légère.