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Canadian nurses win huge gender discrimination pay settlement


Auveen Woods
WVoN co-editor

A group of 700 nurses in Canada have won a gender pay discrimination case against the Canadian federal government which may exceed $150 million.

The judgement marks the end of an arduous eight-year court battle by the nurses who work for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

“Today we can finally celebrate a huge victory for justice and equality,” Ruth Walden, the original complainant, said in a news release from the union.

Walden filed the initial complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2004 and was soon joined by over 400 colleagues.

Walden and her largely female colleagues were paid between $50,000 and $60,000, per year, half as much as the male-dominated group of doctors who work at CPP, even though both groups perform the same duties by determining the eligibility of applicants for CPP disability benefits.

Moreover until last year the nurses were classified as program administrators, not as medical professionals, a distinction that denied them professional recognition.

This has changed since the human rights tribunal ordered the government to place them in a nursing category.

In 2007 a tribunal ruled that the pay disparity was due to gender discrimination. A second court  overturned the tribunal’s ruling in 2009 forcing the women to launch an appeal, which was successful.

It is not yet clear how many nurses will receive payments as the settlement covers three decades of gender discriminatory practices.

Lawyer Laurence Armstrong who represented many of the nurses believes the final settlement could reach over $200 million.

Each claimant is entitled to $2,000 for pain and suffering, and with additional payments to reduce taxes owed on the settlement payout, some long-serving nurses may receive over $250,000.

Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada which represented the women, criticised the time it took to deal with the pay inequality.

He also said that the government’s 2009 Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act would make it harder to address allegations of gender discrimination in the future.

Despite their win the nurses are still being paid their discriminatory salaries.

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