Cashing in on pay equity?: supermarket restructuring and gender equality

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Sumach Press, Nov 29, 2002 - Business & Economics - 285 pages
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Pay equity in Canada has its origins in the 1890s when feminists began to address issues of equality for working women. Over the century, the concept of pay equity has been shaped and developed by feminist involvement. Yet despite some advancements made in attaining higher wages, pay equity has not been achieved in most workplaces. Restructuring and reduction of the workforce, the growth of part-time jobs, and the resistance from business and the marketplace have not made it easy. But, Kainer asks, can pay equity benefit women in the long term?

To answer this question, Kainer looks at the Canadian food retail sector, one of the largest employers of women, to critically examine the position of women workers and the advancement of pay equity. She traces the growth of supermarkets, the mergers and amalgamations that created supermarket giants, their growing domination of food distribution and the employment of women as clerks and cashiers. As employees, these women continue to face systemic wage discrimination, difficult working conditions and limited career advancement. In addition, their unions do not always stand behind pay equity initiatives. Using Ontario's pay equity law as a case study, Kainer analyzes how this law has been translated and implemented by supermarket chains. She argues that more often than not the implementation has resulted in women workers losing wages and, in some cases, their jobs.

If this is the outcome, then it is critical that feminists work to win stronger rights in the workplace. How can feminist legal strategy and unions promote gender equality? Cashing In On Pay Equity? sets out the first steps by placing women's rights in clear focus.

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About the author (2002)

About the Author: Jan Kainer is Assistant Professor in and Co-ordinator of the Labour Studies Program, Division of Social Science at York University. Her research, writing and public presentations focus on how the gendered division of labour in the Canadian economy, pay equity and labour relations affect women workers. Dr. Kainer is the co-producer of the video. 'In the Face of Justice, ' which pays tribute to women's contributions to the Canadian legal system in the twentieth century. She is also a participant in a community-university research project investigating marginalized youth's access to university/colleges and the labour market.