Budget Bill and the Federal Contractors Program

So many big changes are happening in Bill C-38 that some significant issues like the changes to the Federal Contractors Program (FCP) have escaped attention.  Part 4 Division 42 of C-38 is very short.  It merely says that subsection 42(2) of the Employment Equity Act is replaced by the following:

“The Minister is responsible for the administration of the Federal Contractors Program for Employment.”

It sounds innocuous enough until one looks that the subsection in the original Act.  This section stipulates that while discharging this responsibility the Minister needs to ensure that contractors with the Federal government implement employment equity equivalent to those required of an employer covered by the Employment Equity Act.  All of this has been eliminated.

The removal of this ‘equivalency’ requirement in Bill C-38 essentially does away with the legal requirement that contractors apply Employment Equity Act standards in their workplaces.  The Minister now has the latitude to establish any standard s/he wants – or none at all.  Obviously there would be no reason to change this legislation if the Minister intended to continue to apply the employment equity provisions.

The FCP was established in the mid 1980s to protect designated groups that historically experienced discrimination.  These groups are women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities.  It stipulated that any organization with 100 or more employees that wanted to bid on a federal government contract had to agree to implement employment equity.   Each contractor had to have a plan to ensure employment equity, and collect data on its employees related to the proportion in each designated group and earnings by group. The company also needed to report annually on its findings.  The information publicly available from these reports was significant in encouraging many sectors, such as the banking sector, to change employment practices.

This equity tool, and indeed the Employment Equity Act itself was never enough to do what needed to be done, but however inadequate, it was one of the few equity tools we had and it is being dismantled.  The FCP will still be on the books, but all of the regional staff positions will be eliminated within 16 months.  Essentially this means compliance reviews will not occur.  Also, the Ottawa staff will be cut and the total workforce (never very large, at 40) will shrink to 17.

This is a huge step backward for groups protected by the Employment Equity Legislation.  Without the enforcement of equity provisions in FCP employers (like Universities and banks) can bid on government contracts and simply not have to worry about their discriminatory practices in hiring, promotion, and pay.

 

 

4 comments

  • Andrew jackson

    Thanks for underlining the significance of this.

  • Employment Equity, by it’s nature, is discrimantory legislation. Instead of equalling the playing field, it gives priority hiring to so-called “designated groups” at the expense of everyone else. How is it wrong to discriminate against members of “designated groups” but ok and even laudable to do discrimate against anyone who doesn’t fall within these groups?

    I thought rights movements were all about equality and not about giving special status to anyone.

    The term “hypocrite” comes to mind…

  • Marjorie Griffin Cohen

    Employment Equity has nothing to do with ‘priority hiring,’ as Greg Cholod would know if he knew anything about the Canadian legislation. It is fairly innocuous legislation that requires those in the federal sector, or contractors to the federal government, to have a plan in place that would eliminate discriminatory hiring, promotion and pay practices. It also requires that data on those groups covered by Human Rights Legislation be kept and periodically reported to the government. This requirement allows the public to monitor the employment practices of many of the institutions that receive government money. But there are no directives about who should be hired, quotas, etc. The important aspect of the Federal Contractors’ program is that the availability of the information about hiring could indicate which firms are more likely to discriminate in their employment practices than others.

  • Greg Cholod, you are obviously misinformed and its about equity, not equality. I used to work for a company that participated in this program. I know the stats, they simply do not back up what you are saying. Even with the program, most Aboriginal and Visible Minorities (and immigrants) were getting screened out due to “best fit” rationale. All it did was force people to at least think about whether they were screening people out based on credentials versus unsubstantiated bias. The program also educated (typically through company volunteers so it didn’t cost anyone anything) on the Employment Equity Act and programs. Training you obviously never received or you would see how unsubstantiated your remarks are.

    Goals were set based on the surrounding populations (data we don’t have any more because Harper changed the census too so now no one can see the damage these changes will have). Too many times you would have a company with almost no Black employees yet were and serviced Black communities. This was having a negative impact on them that was measurable…at least it used be measurable.

    This all caters to people you like Greg…people who are completely unaware of the truth, too lazy to find out, and have underlying biases that are based on propaganda that really revolves around white men being scared that they will have to share even a little piece of the pie with women, visible minorities, Aboriginals, and people with disabilities who are are QUALIFIED individuals.

    Employment Equity policies help all employees by creating an atmosphere of fairness. Companies who employ these practices do better than companies that don’t. What happens in the companies that don’t is the Execs focus mainly on short term goals in order to get their bonuses. Whether they have created a fair productive environment is a non-issue without EE forcing them to do it.

    What is really sad, is how little attention this got. If people only knew how protecting designated groups they were protecting themselves in measurable ways. This is going to have the opposite affect of helping businesses but it will do a lot of harm to years and years of work by employees/volunteers who KNOW the truth and have been working to improve work atmospheres….for all staff.

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