Pay equity results are in

Pay equity results are in McGill University

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McGill Reporter
January 10, 2002 - Volume 34 Number 08
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 34: 2001-2002 > January 10, 2002 > Pay equity results are in

Pay equity results are in

After months of meetings, the work of the Pay Equity Committee (PEC) is coming to an end and decisions have been made about whose paycheques are about to become a little fatter.

The results won't be all that dramatic.

One thing that just about everybody associated with the process will agree to is that the pay equity exercise was far from perfect.

"This was government policy. We had to do it and we had to do it in a way that conformed to the law and to the guidelines issued by Quebec's pay equity commission," says Vice-Principal (Information Systems and Technology) Anthony Masi.

Masi sat on PEC as a representative of the administration. Together with other members who represented the University at large and most of its faculty and staff associations and unions, Masi spent long hours comparing the pay rates and responsibilities associated with dozens of different types of McGill jobs ranging from linen maids to full professors.

It wasn't an easy chore. "We have five very different salary structures at McGill," Masi notes. Some job categories are tied to flat rates, others offer fairly broad maximum and minimum salary scales. Some are "catch as catch can" -- research assistants, for instance, whose employment terms vary greatly depending on the type of external funding supporting their job.

"We were trying to compare apples and oranges," Masi says.

But compare they had to do. Quebec City insisted on it. The provincial government mandated all organizations with at least 10 employees to take part in similar exercises aimed at ensuring that individuals who work in jobs that are typically held by women earn the same amount of money for work of equal value to their organizations as people doing jobs that are typically held by men.

A laudable goal but not one that the government-designed process really achieves, says Masi. For instance, the government defines a position as being predominantly female if at least 60% of the people holding down the job are women.

"In cases where, let's say, 56% of the people in the position were women, that wouldn't count. If it happens that the people in those positions are relatively underpaid, it wouldn't be covered by this process," explains Masi.

"A perverse effect of the law might be that, as we raise the salary levels for predominantly female positions that have been undercompensated, the predominantly male positions or gender neutral positions that are also [undercompensated] become even more so. Doesn't that create further inequity?"

"It's not a perfect law," agrees librarian Joan Hobbins, one of the PEC members representing the interests of McGill's academic corps. "In terms of the things we were able to address, it ended up being such a thin slice."

In doing their work, the PEC had to determine which McGill job classes were predominantly female and which were predominantly male. Then the different jobs were compared on the basis of their working conditions, the effort needed to perform them, the qualifications they required and the responsibilities they entailed.

After hashing all that out and comparing predominantly female and male jobs on that basis, the PEC had to determine which jobs were underpaid and by how much.

So who is eligible for pay hikes? "The lion's share of the salary increases will be going to members of MUNACA," says Masi of the union that represents over 1,300 library assistants, technicians and clerical workers. A little more than 800 MUNACA members will receive salary adjustments ranging from 0.2% to 30%.

Hardly any managers or professionals will be affected by pay equity and only a few academic staff will see their salaries rise as a result of the process. Assistant librarians and some research assistants will see their salaries increase.

The pay hikes will be spread out over the next four years.

By getting the current exercise done by Quebec City's deadline, McGill has a guarantee from the government that some $3.9 million that was set aside nearly a decade ago for an earlier pay equity exercise that McGill never completed will now be available to the University.

However, it is one-off, not base funding. Furthermore, it does not necessarily have to be distributed to the groups identified in this pay equity exercise, just that it must be used "to achieve pay equity."

While Masi characterizes MUNACA members as pay equity's biggest winners, the association itself is expressing its concerns over how the process was played out.

In a recent mailing to MUNACA members, the association claims that "many of our members could have received higher adjustments if a different method of comparison had been used."

MUNACA president Dot Luk hails the hard work done by PEC members, but she believes the jobs of many MUNACA members weren't adequately analyzed -- the qualifications needed to do them and the difficulty of their working conditions were often underestimated, in her view.

In some cases, Luk says PEC came to its decisions with little information about the actual job classes it was looking at. "We've encouraged our members to look at the results and ask questions. Individuals have that right."

Masi responds that MUNACA had a seat at the table and a voice in how the pay equity process was developed. The association also had another option it chose not to pursue.

Quebec's pay equity law offered unions the opportunity to do the exercise on their own for their members. "I think it's totally inappropriate for any union to have participated in this and then complain about it after the fact. They could have opted out but they didn't," says Masi.

For her part, Hobbins hopes the pay equity exercise doesn't mark the end of discussions at McGill about whether or not people are being fairly compensated for the work that they do.

"Let's get everything right. Let's aim for true internal equity. That's the ultimate goal."

Masi says McGill will continue to work on that front. "This is very important to us."

The University made moves last year, for instance, to begin correcting salary inequalities between men and women that were identified by the Academic Salary Policy Sub-Committee Task Force.

Tenure-track professors were the first priority in this regard, but faculty lecturers' salaries are also being examined to ensure that females are paid a rate that's comparable to what their male colleagues earn.

And the pay equity process itself isn't over. Part of McGill's commitment to the government is to monitor the creation of new types of jobs in the future and to ensure that the predominantly female positions yet to be devised are not underpaid.

For more details about the results of PEC's work, visit its web site at

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