Montreal Newspaper Guild | CWA Canada Local 30111

A pay-equity plan that has finally been approved at The Gazette will see about $2.5 million in back pay and penalties doled out to workers.

David Wilson, the CWA Canada staff representative who has been involved with the pay-equity file in Montreal since the beginning in January 2000, says workers who were “grossly underpaid” will now be properly compensated, some as much as $50,000.

Clerical jobs were the source of some of the greatest discrepancies, says Wilson. Pay increases range from one to 20 per cent and are retroactive to Nov. 21, 2001, the original deadline for The Gazette to comply with provincial legislation. The payouts include a five-per-cent penalty the company was assessed each year past the deadline.

The province’s Pay Equity Commission has just given its stamp of approval to the plan, which was thrashed out over more than 10 years.

The employer-employee committee now has to begin a maintenance process, which must be completed by the end of this year. Wilson says this is necessary because new technologies and ways of doing things constantly alter the nature of jobs. After 2011, companies will have to do maintenance to the plan at least every five years.

He says CWA Canada Locals, particularly in Ontario which has pay-equity laws, need to keep up to date on changes in the workplace. “All those Locals should be doing maintenance because there’s money sitting there for their members.”

Wilson, who has the most pay equity expertise of any staff in the union, encouraged Locals to contact him if they would like some guidance on the matter.

Literally hundreds of hours were spent on pay equity in Montreal, he says. At the outset, the committee evaluated 73 jobs and had to construct a rating system that would pass muster with the commission.

Those sessions bogged down in 2003 when The Gazette “threw up roadblocks” with complaints to the commission and appeals to the courts, says Wilson.

Many companies put the process on hold in 2006, when it was thought the legislation would be revisited. “A lot of employers were hoping the legislation would be vastly changed or eliminated,” says Wilson. It wasn’t.

The committee at The Gazette restarted the process last August and concluded two weeks ago, says Wilson. The rating system they had devised was considered deficient by the commission, which then sent an employee to work with the committee to modify the plan to its satisfaction.

It could take some time to track down everyone who’s entitled to receive a payout, says Wilson. He cites the example of the Reader Sales & Service phone room (it closed in 2008) where many workers came and went over seven years.

The raises aren’t going solely to women. Wilson says some males who work in female-dominated departments such as the business office, will be getting an increase.