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Newfoundland court allows financial crisis to delay pay equity.

ST. JOHN'S, NL -- The Supreme Court of Newfound and Labrador backed the provincial government in using a financial crisis to justify putting off pay equity payments to female health-care workers, even though the move violated their equality rights.

The Supreme Court of Canada has yet to rule on a similar case concerning expensive treatment for autistic children. The B.C. government has appealed two lower court decisions ordering it to pay for the $60,000-a-year therapy. The arguments were on constitutional grounds.

The decision of the Newfoundland court had unanimous support of the judges. The ruling affects about 5,000 current and past women employed by the province.

In 1991 the Newfoundland government deferred pay equity payments because of its financial problem. Newfoundland argued it had to defer the pay adjustments, originally agreed to in 1988, to stave off a money crisis that threatened the province's credit rating.

Sheila Greene, lead counsel for the Newfoundland Association of Public Employees claims "governments now have carte blanche to put cash ahead of the charter", and that this will set a precedent for claiming financial hardship when dealing with the claims of women, the disabled, aboriginals and other minorities.

The justices stated that governments will be able to use this argument only in exceptional situations. The ruling said the courts will "continue to look with strong skepticism at attempts to justify infringements of charter rights on the basis of budgetary constraints. To do otherwise would devalue the charter because there are always budgetary constraints."
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Publication:Community Action
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CNEW
Date:Nov 22, 2004
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