Monday, February 17, 1997

Pay Equity: fighting a losing battle

Last week the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the Canadian Human Rights Commission does have jurisdiction in the Northwest Territories.

Besides being a welcome relief to know that human rights extend north of 60, it means the GNWT is one step closer to having to pay out upwards of $70 million, according to a union estimate, in pay equity settlements.

The GNWT's arguments against pay equity included challenging the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Commission and protesting that the study recommending pay equity was prejudiced because one of the contributors held a union card.

One wonders the administration didn't claim bias over the fact that one member of the study committee was a woman.

What is at stake here is the idea of equal pay for work of equal value, a principle that hardly requires debate in 1997.

Only the issue of how retroactive, if at all, payment should be and who exactly qualifies should be subject to negotiation.

The GNWT should stop wasting time and more money fighting the principle of pay equity and start talking about settling.

It was the GNWT that broke off negotiations with the Union of Northern Workers in 1989. After wasting nearly a decade on legal wrangling we're back to square one.

A settlement of some sort is inevitable. No matter how large it is, it will worsen the territory's already strained fiscal situation.

However, the sooner the government gives up its losing battle and sits down to talk, the sooner the GNWT will have a clear picture of the size of its obligation.

With division looming, a swift resolution of the pay equity issue becomes all the more important. Settle it now. (17/Feb/97)

Arson lunacy

What have the people of Fort McPherson done to deserve the loss of their community's school to arson, not once, but twice in little more than a year?

Deliberately set fires are hard to prevent, which makes it all the more urgent that the person or persons responsible are caught and the full weight of the justice system brought to bear.

Out of respect for the students and the rest of the hamlet, we urge anyone with information about the crime to help police with their investigation. (17/Feb/97)

Royal commission

It's been a few months since the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples released its much-anticipated report. Since then little has been said or done in response.

While no one expects the federal government to act immediately on the report's recommendations -- such things take years to filter through the policy-making process -- media reaction has been hard to find.

Part of the reason is the commission's failure to make its $250 report accessible. But that just means journalists will have to work harder to do justice to an important, but so far under-reported, story. (17/Feb/97)