Pay equity adjustments may not be used to offset pay increases granted in a collective agreement

3 minute read
01 February 2015

The Québec Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of arbitrator René Beaupré affecting how Québec employers can treat pay equity adjustments.

Historically, different types of work have tended to draw predominantly male or female workers. Women often earn less. Pay equity laws typically command wage increases in traditionally lower-paid “female” jobs to reduce inequity between the genders.

In the case of Héma-Québec v. Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs de Héma-Québec, D.T.E. 2011T-99 the employer granted pay equity adjustments to a female-dominated occupational group. These pay equity adjustments were to be paid out over four years. However, the employer would deduct from these pay equity adjustments the general pay increases the female group was set to receive under their collective agreement. The employer stated that he would continue to offset the two until the gap between the female-dominated occupational group and male-dominated occupational group was eliminated, thus the employer was fulfilling the principle of maintaining pay equity provided by section 40 of the Pay Equity Act (PEA).

The employer justified this offsetting approach to the arbitrator by claiming that the general pay increases granted under the collective agreement were advances on the pay equity adjustments.

The arbitrator stated that the pay equity adjustments cannot be unilaterally modified, cancelled or revoked by the employer. Furthermore, section 74 of the PEA states that the equity adjustments are a part of the collective agreement and bind the parties. Therefore, the employer may not : “"[…] offset the general pay increases negotiated in the collective agreement with the adjustments granted in the pay equity program"1 or claim that the general pay increase granted in the collective agreement is an advance on the adjustment payments due under the PEA.

To read the original article in French by Audrey Pinard from our Montréal office, click here.

1 Héma-Québec c. Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs de Héma-Québec, D.T.E. 2011T-99, AZ-50701384. (available in French only)

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