Midwives claim victory as divisional court upholds previous tribunal decision

CENTRE WELLINGTON – Local midwives hope the province will stop fighting them in court and get on with paying them a fair and equitable wage after Ontario’s Divisional Court released a decision last week to uphold a previous Human Rights Tribunal decision on pay equity.

In February the Human Rights Tribunal found that the Ministry of Health discriminated against midwives on the basis of sex when setting their compensation. The ministry disagreed and took the decision to Ontario’s Divisional Court.

With the new ruling, the ministry has 10 days to decide if it will take the matter to Ontario Superior Court and possibly on to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“This decision strengthens and validates our position,” said Rebecca Carson in an interview after the Divisional Court decision on June 30.

Carson is a midwife and partner in Family Midwifery Care, which operates from Guelph but has clients in Fergus, Puslinch and Arkell.

“I hope the government will review their position and stop fighting us in court,” she said.

“This decision does not just apply to midwives. It says all employers have to set compensation fairly for sex-segregated workers. You can’t claim ignorance anymore.”

“The decision by Ontario Divisional Court to deny the province’s request for a judicial review of an earlier pay equity ruling is clear. This is 2020, gender discrimination against professions which are predominantly female is unacceptable,” states Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) president Vicki McKenna in a press release.

Before 2005, the Ministry of Health and the Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM) reached a compensation agreement that placed midwife salaries somewhere between salaries earned by physicians and nurse practitioners at Community Health Centres.

This benchmark was based on skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions in low-risk maternity and newborn care.

Since then, salaries for physicians at Community Health Centres have increased while those for midwives have not kept pace.

Because midwifery is a female-dominated profession that exclusively focuses on women’s reproductive health, the tribunal ruled that gender discrimination is at play in determining their salaries and divisional court upheld that decision.

In its remedy decision the tribunal recommended a salary increase of 20 per cent to bring wages to parity and a one-time payment of $7,500 for injury to dignity.

“We’ve always been hopeful, but we are even more so now with the strength of the language (in the decision),” Carson said.

“We know what we are doing is just and correct. This is a pretty big day for us.”