Local midwives are pushing the provincial government for pay-equity that they say is a long time coming.
On Friday, several midwives rallied in Chatham before meeting with MPP Rick Nicholls to discuss the issue.
This comes after Midwives across Ontario filed a complaint seven years ago alleging the government had discriminatory compensation practices for midwives on the basis of gender. In 2018, a landmark decision ruled in favour of the midwives and on February 19, 2020 the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ordered the Ford government to end the gender pay gap for midwives by increasing the pay midwives receive by 20 per cent, retroactive to 2011.
The provincial government has since applied for a judicial review of the tribunal decision.
In addition to Chatham, midwife groups across the province rallied on Friday in hopes of encouraging government officials to withdraw the judicial review and instead implement the remedies that the Human Rights Tribunal ordered.
Registered midwife Diane Jaworiwsky said although the issue of the pay gap won't go away overnight, the tribunal decision is a step in the right direction.
"I don't think the gender gap will go away completely," she said. "But the remedies that have been issued by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario really take progressive steps to make sure that it's narrowed now and then steps to ensure its eliminated in the future. I'm hoping the government will abide by the Humans Right Tribunal orders."
According to Karen McKenzie, registered midwife, a 20 per cent retroactive pay increase still doesn't come close to what the pay gap actually is.
"What we did get is less than half of what the gender pay gap is as determined by an independent investigative company," she explained. "The gender pay gap with Ontario midwives is 48 per cent. We're getting 20 per cent for those years. This isn't about a massive win fall. This is about keeping midwives being paid equally."
Many of the midwives at the rally on Friday agreed that Nicholls was welcoming and willing to listen to them.
Nicholls told Blackburn News that the government recognizes and values the contribution of midwives. However, he declined to comment any further due to the ongoing process.
"We're reviewing the decision... it's ongoing and because it's ongoing truthfully, it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further," he said.
Around 20 – 25 per cent of births in the municipality are done using midwife care, which includes services such as availability to round the clock midwife access, in-depth home visits and care that lasts up to six weeks post-partum.
-With files from Paul Pedro