Equal Times

March 23, 2017

Who knows? I may have been the only person to write a feminist column on a rural newspaper in the 1980s.

Yet there is a strong her story of women newspaper suffragists (read: early feminists) including sisters Lillian and Frances Beynon who wrote very forward thinking columns in farm newspapers during the early 1900s when women were lobbying for the vote in Canada.

Recently, the threat of DT has mobilized and radicalized women again. It will be interesting to see what feminist writing emerges now that we have been awakened from our complacency.

Here is another of my column pieces from the early 1980s:

Gavelbourg Gazette

February 9, 1983

Equal Times

by Tanya Lester

Working women in Saskatchewan have a  right to equal rates of pay when they work in the same establishment as men, when the working conditions are similar and when they are performing work which requires similar skill, effort and responsibility.

— Labour Standards brochure, Saskatchewan Labour. Effective January 1, 1982.

Sounds fair , doesn’t it? So why are women’s rights groups still making a fuss about improving the “equal pay” legislation?

I’ll tell you why. The “equal pay” legislation in any of the provinces which have gone so far as to legislate this type of law has so many loopholes in it that any woman who is being paid less than a man because of sexual discrimination is almost bound to fall through one of these holes if she tries to lobby for an improved salary.

First of all,  if you look again at the above interpretation of the law from the Labour Standards brochure, you will notice that part of it reads: “Working women in Saskatchewan have a to equal rates of pay when they work in the same establishment as men.”

The key words here are “same establishment”. There are many jobs that men would refuse to take because they are so low paying. The woman, then , who works as a secretary in an office does not have a male co-worker who is “performing work which requires similar skill, effort and responsibility.”

Under the law, therefore, her employer can continue to pay her a low salary. “Equal pay for equal work,” which is essentially what the above statement of the law is, does not apply to the secretary.

But what women’s groups are lobbying for is a modification to this law which would get rid of the “same establishment” clause. Then a secretary’s job could be compared or valued on the same level as a car mechanic, for example, who would usually be a man but who works in a different establishment and almost always collects a higher wage.

But if you compare the two jobs, the secretary’s and the mechanic’s work can be valued as being equal whether they work for the same establishment or not. Both have taken training to acquire the skills for their jobs. The secretary’s skills are her typing speed and accuracy. The mechanic’s skills are his ability to fix car engines.

Perhaps, the mechanic has to do a lot of heavy lifting which the secretary does not have to do. But instead, the secretary has to be polite to the general public which is just as taxing on her energy as the mechanic’s lifting is to him. So, in the end, their jobs can be valued as equal. This concept, although I have simplified it to get my point across, is called “equal pay for work of equal value.”

More and more women are skirting (no pun intended) the “equal pay for work of equal value” concept by entering trades and professions which were traditionally dominated by men. We have women lawyers, doctors, mechanics, machinists, carpenters and the list goes on and on.

If you ask a woman diesel mechanic, for example, why she is working in that field, she will usually  reply that it is better paying than working as a secretary.

But some women do not want to become mechanics and some of them are just not cut out for this kind of work. So, because a woman has chosen to be a secretary, does this mean that she should have to be paid a low salary?

I know many a businessman who would be completely and totally lost without his secretary. So why doesn’t he pay her a higher salary? Why doesn’t he give her better job benefits? Why doesn’t he value what she is doing for him?

For more information on “equal pay” contact the Women’s Division, Saskatchewan Labour, 1914 Hamilton St., Regina, S4P 4V4, ph. 565-2453 or 565-2468. The Women’s Division can help you  with complaints concerning your work situation and put you in touch with women’s groups who are working to improve the “equal pay” laws. me

In closing, I would like to remind everyone to get in their entries for the “most grandchildren” story to me….

–END–

Tanya’s books are Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader and Friends I Never Knew (available for purchase at amazon books) as well as Dreams and Tricksters & Women’s Rights/Writes.

Tanya’s web page is teareading.wordpress.com where you can get information for her work as a psychic, reiki master and house sitter. Her pages are online on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google.

To read more posts in this blog, go to writingsmall.wordpress.com and tealeaf56.wordpress.com

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