Toronto Sun

Wednesday, October 20, 1999

Feds lose pay equity appeal

Public workers' 16-year battle over $5 billion

By STEPHANIE RUBEC, OTTAWA BUREAU
Toronto Sun

OTTAWA --  The federal public service has won the latest fight in a 16-year, $5-billion pay equity battle.

The Federal Court of Canada yesterday dismissed the government's request to appeal a July 1998 Human Rights Tribunal ruling and ordered them to pay up.

The tribunal ruled last year that Ottawa owed 13 years of back pay and interest to rectify wage gaps for about 200,000 former and present mostly female employees.

It hasn't yet been determined how to calculate it, but Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) estimates its members could get anywhere from $500 to $60,000 each.

PSAC vice-president Nicole Turmel said she's "ecstatic," but conceded that the feds could appeal this latest ruling.

The government could take the ruling to the Federal Court of Appeal and, if they lose again, to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Turmel threatened a slew of protests if there's another appeal. "I don't think at this point there is room for a negotiated settlement," she said.

The court ruling puts the cost to the feds at between $3 billion and $5 billion. Ottawa has previously offered $1.3 billion to settle out of court.

Federal Court Justice John Evans released his ruling a month early, chastising the government for delaying the implementation of pay equity.

"Justice unduly delayed in this context is indeed likely to be justice denied," he wrote in his 92-page ruling. Evans shot down every argument put forward by the Attorney General of Canada as too abstract. He also ordered the government to pay PSAC's court costs for this latest appeal.

Treasury Board President Lucienne Robillard asked for a few days to analyze the decision before deciding whether to appeal.

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