Public Values

Equal opportunity in the workplace is the latest Conservative target

Government flogs myths about employment equity, equality, and merit.

July 23, 2010

OTTAWA - First the Harper Conservatives cancelled the mandatory long-form census. Now they're going after the federal Employment Equity Act that depends on this data. Jason Kenney, Citizenship Minister, announced that the government will be reviewing employment equity policies and practices in the federal public service.

"The government claims to support diversity but its news release implies the opposite", says PSAC National Executive Vice-President Patty Ducharme. "It reinforces the misconception that equal opportunity is threatened by employment equity measures and that employment equity hiring policies are not based on merit."

The purpose of employment equity is to ensure equal access to jobs for all and to make sure that workplaces reflect the diversity of the Canadian population. The Employment Equity Act and the Public Service Employment Act already require all hiring to be based on merit and qualifications.

Less than 2 percent of job competitions in the federal public service are designated for equity group members. Managers have to justify the use of these designations with data showing large gaps in their workforce representation.

"In fact, the government needs to be doing more to ensure diversity throughout its workforce," says Ducharme.

A recent Senate Committee on Human Rights report says the federal public service is not keeping up with the private sector in terms of hiring a diverse workforce. According to the report, "As the largest employer in the country, the federal public service should be representative of the public it serves, and should be providing leadership for businesses in other sectors rather than struggling to be representative enough for an increasingly diverse population".

"Canadians value fairness and equality," says Ducharme. "These values are reflected in the fact that Canada is seen as a leader with its progressive employment equity law and policies. This latest announcement follows earlier decisions by the Harper government involving pay equity, the Court Challenges Program and the work of the rights agencies such as Rights and Democracy that undermine these values in our society."

"If there is to be a review of employment equity practices, it should be with the goal of making the federal public service more reflective of the diversity of Canada's population," says Ducharme. "And any review must be open to Parliamentary and public scrutiny."

Links and sources
  PSAC release

Posted: August 03, 2010

  Public services

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