By Suzanne Coolen
BELLEVILLE – Local early childhood educators are very happy with Monday’s announcement of a wage increase for Ontario’s licensed child care workers.
“We are very excited about the increase,” said Kelly Allen, executive director of Family Space Quinte. “This is very welcoming news.”
Debbie Milne, executive director of First Adventure Child Development Centres on Bridge Street, says it is great, great news.
“Its nice that the Liberals are investing in workers in what has traditionally been an underpaid job for the amount of work they do,” she said.
“It has been very difficult for child care workers to compete with the school board,who’s workers are paid much more for the same job.”
For daycare workers employed in full-day kindergarten classrooms it is between $20 and $26 per hour before the announcement. For all other daycare workers the average hourly wage is about $16 per hour.
Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne announced Monday the government will increase the wage by $1 per hour with another wage increase, starting this month and an additional $1 increase next year. Only workers making less than $26.27 an hour will be eligible for the raise.
The increase will be available to eligible child care program staff working in all licensed child care centres employed as of January 1, 2015, as well as licensed private home day care providers.
This new wage is aimed at closing the pay gap. The last significant wage increase was in 2007, when the province spent about $25 million to give the low paid daycare workers a 3-per-cent raise.
“Parents deserve the peace of mind of knowing their children are in good hands,” said Wynne in a press release. “By investing in early childhood educators, we are supporting nurturing child care environments where children can thrive.”
In the May 1 budget in 2014, the Liberals proposed to spend $269 million over two years to raise the wages of daycare workers in licensed settings by $2 an hour and this past December, the government passed the Child Care Modernization Act to strengthen oversight of the province’s unlicensed child care sector and increase access to licensed child care options.
Jennifer deGroot, professor of Early Childhood Education at Loyalist College, applauds the Ontario government for following through on a promise made in last year’s budget to increase wages for child care workers.
“This increase is a positive step toward closing the gap between wages,” she said. “Wages and working conditions often affect the ability to recruit and retain employees.”
deGroot says this is the first step but more can be done.
“We need a provincially established salary grid for early childhood educators to ensure a standardized rate for all early childhood educators regardless of where they work.” she said.