Many miles still to go in quest for real equality

EDMONTON - There is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to guaranteeing real equality for women in the workplace and in their communities, says Kerry Barrett, Secretary Treasurer of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"On the eve of International Women's Day, we have much to celebrate - but here in Alberta and across the country we still haven't reached the point where we can say that all barriers to equality have been dismantled."

As proof that the battle for more equitable treatment has yet to be won, Barrett points to information from Statistics Canada showing that the "gender wage gap" in Alberta is wider than anywhere else in Canada.

"On average, working women in Canada earn about 81 cents for every dollar earned by men. But here in Alberta, women earn only about 76 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts. That's the widest gap in the country - and it's a clear sign that more needs to be done to advance the interests of women in the workplace."

The statistics also show that outside of a few sectors like health care and education - where unions have won better deals for their members - working women are still much less likely to have access to pensions or other benefits than men.

At the same time, Barrett says our governments at both the federal and provincial level have failed to give more than lip service to many of the issues that matter most to women - like affordable child care, low-income housing, assistance for single mothers and funding for women's shelters.

"You don't want to be young, poor and a mother in Alberta," says Barrett. "Raising a young family has never been easy. But our governments have made it much more difficult than it has to be - especially in a wealthy province like ours."

Barrett also points to a report released yesterday by the United Nations showing that Canada has failed to live up to its obligations in areas such as the reduction of child poverty and promoting the number of women in elected positions.

"Here in Alberta, one in five of our children live in poverty - and only 16 of 73 of our MLAs are women. We think there is a direct link between these two figures. Without more women in positions of authority, we will continue to have governments that ignore the concerns of women and families."

Barrett says that the labour movement has and will continue to play a central role in improving conditions for women.

"In most of the sectors of the economy where women have pulled even to men in terms of wages, benefits and responsibility there is one common denominator - and that's the presence of unions," she says. "Our challenge now is to organize more women and use our collective strength to level the playing field more broadly."

For more information call:

Kerry Barrett,  AFL Secretary Treasurer  at 780-483-3021 or 1-800-661-3995
or 780-720-8945 (cell)

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