Marathon pay equity battle over

Bell Canada settles with female operators in $104-million deal
|Canadian Employment Law Today

The pay equity battle between Bell Canada and its female telephone operators is apparently over.

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada said it has reached a deal with Bell to settle the dispute, which began 14 years ago, with 4,765 operators. CEP said the operators will be splitting $104 million.

CEP president Brian Payne said the settlement, “will bring closure to one of the longest fought struggles in the labour movement.”

Michael Sabia, president and CEO of Bell Canada Enterprises and CEO of Bell Canada, called the settlement fair.

"We look forward to its ratification and to putting this matter behind us," he said.

A long battle

The union filed its claim for pay equity on behalf of the largely female operators, dining services and house services workers in 1992 with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The case was referred to a tribunal and was the subject of extensive legal challenges, including a challenge to the Supreme Court, over the years.

At the urging of the commission, both sides agreed to mediation late last year, the union said. Current and former employees affected by its terms will vote on acceptance or rejection at a series of meetings across Ontario and Quebec in May and June.

“This is a very good settlement made possible by the strength and determination of CEP members over many years,” said Payne. “We think it serves justice and provides fair monetary compensation to our past and present members at Bell Canada.”

What the settlement offers

According to the union, the settlement provides compensation in three specific categories:

•settlement money;

•payment for pain and suffering (tax exempt); and

•adjustments to pensions.

An operator currently working at Bell Canada and who worked the full period covered by the settlement (1993 to 1999) will receive:

•$16,500 in settlement payment;

•$6,000 in pain and suffering (tax exempt); and

•a maximum of additional pensionable earnings of $13,530.

The minimum payment will be $1,000 to those employed for less than one year but more than six months, the union said.

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