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Childcare workers rally for fair wages, government clarity

Sep 8, 2022 | 10:03 PM

Early Childhood Educators gathered at Grande Parade on Thursday to march to the Department of Education. They want to know when they'll get more details about a promised pay increase. Photo: Anastasia Payne

Early Childhood Educators gathered at Grand Parade in Halifax Thursday to rally for clarity on when they’ll see a wage hike, promised over a year ago. 

As part of the federal-provincial child care agreement, announced in July 2021, ECE’s were promised a new wage scale. But nearly 14 months later, there’s still no official word on what date they’ll see a raise. 

“You can’t take care of kids in a good way when you’re hungry yourself,” said Julianne Harnish, an ECE working at A Tiny Lab for Early Learning in Halifax. “It’s awful.”

Premier Tim Houston and Minister of Education, Becky Druhan, have both said the wage hike will be announced in the coming weeks. 

“To somebody like the Minister of Education, who makes a lot more money than us, waiting a few weeks is not a big deal. To an ECE, it could be the difference between eating or not eating,” said Harnish. 

At least seven childcare centres were closed in Halifax on Thursday so employees could attend the rally, organized and led by people working in the field, said Margot Nickerson, president of the CUPE local union representing six childcare centres in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

There are over 4000 certified ECE’s in the province, Nickerson said. But only about 2000 are working in childcare facilities across the province.

Many of the rest ECEs have moved to teach pre-primary in the public school system, where they’ll earn more money, she said.

Julianne Harnish (left) Margot Nickerson (right) Photo: Anastasia Payne

“If you walked over to the public school system and worked with your fellow ECE, who has the same training, same experience [as you], and you had a pension plan, an affordable medical plan and you had a better salary scale – wouldn’t you go there instead?”

Harnish said staff are pushed to their limits.

“People have to leave the field, just to make enough money to take care of their own children.”

The last time employees in the sector saw a raise was 2014; that increase was based on 2012 numbers, Nickerson said. 

The workers hope to hear from Becky Druhan within the next week about when they can expect a proper pay. If that doesn’t happen, Nickerson said they’ll organize again.

“I think early childhood educators are ready to stand up for ourselves and to demand that we be treated fairly finally”



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