The union representing workers at Community Living Tillsonburg (CLT) is threatening legal action over the agency’s refusal to make pay equity payments as required by law.
In a letter on Friday, counsel for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) said the union will take CLT to court unless it pays up by Wednesday.
CLT currently owes 232 workers a total of $784,632.23 plus interest, OPSEU said, adding the amount owed for each individual depends on how long they’ve worked at CLT. A number of longtime employees are owed almost $9,000 each.
“They’re not getting away with this. We’ve been very patient with them and the members have been patient with them. They just need to pay,” Warren “Smokey” Thomas, President of The Ontario Public Service Employees Union said. “They can be charged and we will take every legal action to make sure the people get their pay.”
Ontario’s Pay Equity Act, which became law in 1988, requires employers in the province to identify instances of gender-based wage discrimination and make payments to eliminate it.
“Pay Equity is the law, justice isn’t optional,” Thomas said.
In a statement, the Chair of CLT argued that the province was giving them indications they could possibly use unspent budget to meet Pay Equity orders, but only in operations centered around developmental services.
“However, the amount (of money) available is less than a third of our total Pay Equity liability and we have no other funds as we are already running a deficit in our childcare services,” the statement continued.
“Both childcare services and developmental services continue to be chronically underfunded by the Government of Ontario.”
CLT said it would have to find another $20 million, or another $1 million a year, in order to meet its Pay Equity requirements over the next 20 years. The province stopped funding Pay Equity in 2010.
“When the Government abruptly stopped funding Pay Equity, rather than amend its Pay Equity legislation to address its unaffordability, the Government downloaded the obligation to community-based organizations with even less ability to fund it,” the statement read.
The agency said OPSEU, like the Government, was seeking a “short-sighted solution” that, if successful, would lead to service cuts, reductions in workforce, and the selling of homes.
OPSEU and CLT had agreed to a 60-day payment schedule at a Pay Equity Hearings Tribunal pre-hearing meeting in April 2016. OPSEU said the employer failed to make any payments and then informed the union in January 2017 that it would not be doing so.