Friday, February 22

Federal Court quashes PSAC pay equity complaint against CPC

The Federal Court of Canada has added a new chapter to an epic, 25-year human rights case, overturning a $150 million pay equity award granted three years ago to thousands of Canada Post employees across the country.

In 1983, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represented clerical workers at Canada Post, filed a human rights complaint against the corporation, saying it paid lower wages to the mostly female workers of its clerical section, than to the mostly male workers in its operations section.

The union wanted Canada Post to pay $300 million in back wages to about 6,000 current and former workers, most of them women.

So began a long and bizarre legal saga that came to a head in 2005, when a tribunal of the

  • Canadian Human Rights commission finally upheld the discrimination complaint but ordered Canada Post to pay only half the amount in back-pay the union had asked for.
  • Canada Post appealed the matter to the Federal Court, which on Thursday quashed the tribunal's order.

In his judgment, Justice Michael Kelen has harsh words for the tribunal, saying there was little evidence of wage discrimination based on gender.

He said the tribunal "unreasonably ignored the factual reality" that the largest group of women at Canada Post were the 10,000 women working at non-clerical jobs inside the operations group, where the pay was better.

But the judge reserved his most critical words for what he called the "unreasonable" length of the human rights case - 10 years of investigation, followed by almost 12 years of hearings - even referring to Charles Dickens to illustrate his point.

PSAC believes there are good grounds for the union to appeal this latest decision. The union is currently consulting with its legal counsel and a final decision will be made soon about filing a request for judicial review with the Federal Court of Appeal.

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