March for Pay Equity

The Midwives Clinic of East York-Don Mills is proud to join midwives from across the province in celebrating the landmark decision from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) as a victory for Pay Equity and another important step along the road to ending discrimination for workers in marginalized communities everywhere!

In 2013 after years of failed negotiations for fair wage increases for midwives, the Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM) launched a Human Rights case against the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) claiming:
That “the MOH has violated their right to equal treatment without discrimination on the basis of sex under the Human Rights Code,” by:

  1. Failing to take proactive steps to prevent an inequitable compensation and funding system for midwives in Ontario, an historically disadvantaged and almost exclusively female profession vulnerable to compensation and funding discrimination;
  2. Establishing and maintaining an inequitable compensation and funding system for midwives in Ontario.
  3. Providing unequal and discriminatory compensation and funding to midwives in Ontario which served to undervalue their work and contributions and perpetuate the stereotypes and prejudices they faced and continue to face;
  4. Actively refusing to take any reasonable steps to investigate and remedy systemic gender discrimination in compensation when the issue was squarely raised by midwives in Ontario over the years; and
  5. Failing to take steps to address within the Ministry’s powers the gendered integration barriers midwives in Ontario faced.   

The adjudicator in our case recognized that the way midwives’ compensation was originally determined, in collaboration with the MOHLTC (Ministry of Health and Long Term Care) in 1993, properly took into account principles of evidence-based pay equity to ensure “fair and appropriate compensation for midwives [that reflected] the relative skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions for midwives in comparison to other health professions” but since 2005, the government abandoned those principles which resulted in an ever widening, discriminatory gap in compensation between midwives and their established male comparator.

The adjudicator describes the Ministry of Health as “fully engaged as a partner in the 1993 agreement which is a template for a gender-sensitive, inclusive, human rights approach to proactively dealing with the effects of gender discrimination in women’s compensation” and notes that since 2005 those principles have been eroded and the negative effects of midwifery being a profession of mostly women, providing care for mostly women in the area of women’s health has manifested in an ever increasing gender wage gap. This result has “perpetuated the historic disadvantage midwives have experienced as sex-segregated workers.”

The decision therefore requires the government to take proactive steps to correct this gendered wage gap and recommends a collaborative approach with the AOM that looks to the original 1993 methodology for inspiration when determining midwifery compensation going forward.

We are hopeful that the long journey midwives have taken to bring our discriminatory treatment to light will inspire the government to return to fair negotiations with midwives that recognizes the “skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions” involved in the care we provide. But not only that, we are also proud to have set an important precedent that requires employers everywhere to recognize the illegality of paying less for “women’s work” and take real steps to close gender wage gaps in female dominated professions everywhere!

You can access the HRTO decision (which is really a great read!) here: http://www.canlii.org/en/

And see aom.on.ca for more information from the Association of Ontario Midwives.