TORONTO, ON –While better wages for early childhood educators (ECEs) and child care staff are long-overdue and key to ensuring program quality, the province must do more to stabilize child care. Today, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario called on the Ontario government to use the considerable policy levers at its disposal including an immediate infusion of at least $300 million more funding, so no more centres close.
“We are extremely concerned that today’s provincial announcement to slowly increase the base wages of ECEs and child care workers,in itself is not enough to keep the doors of child care centres open. The province has been underfunding child care for many years. This leaves municipalities to pick up the funding shortfall in order to provide even the existing level of services. And even at that, there are still tens of thousands of Ontario families needing affordable child care,” says CUPE’s Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam.
In the last few years, Peel, Windsor, Kingston, Kenora, and Windsorhave closed municipally-run child care centres. Today municipal centres in Sarnia/Lambton and Thunder Bay are in danger of closing. At the same time, provincial neglect has moved many non-profit centres into the unviable category and closed the doors of many needed services.
When the province announced a new way to fund child care, it created a bigger mess, says Poole-Cotnam. “The problem of low wages for child care staff – the majority of who are women – was made even bigger because targeted dollars for wage enhancements for child care staff were scrapped under the new block funding model.”
Also under the new funding model, a number of municipalities received less overall provincial dollars for child care than before.
“Severely underfunded services saw the funding that should had previously been earmarked for wage grants for child care staff as fair game to keep centres and programs open,” says Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario president.
“There is no way to sugar-coat it, we think that pre-budget and potentially pre-election, the Liberals are opportunistically repackaging child care wage grants that would have been – until recently – part of regular child care allocations.” Hahn called on the education minister to openly clarify that the raise in wages she announced today is in addition to, and separate from employers’ obligations under pay equity laws.
When the Liberals announced a “modernization” review of child care two years ago, CUPE Ontario stressed that the province needed to focus on increasing accessibility and quality, reducing the fragmentation of funding and services and stabilizing programs by increasing yearly funding allocations and indexing them to inflation, as well as raising wages.
In addition to an immediate influx of $300 million in the 2014 – 2015 budget year to keep existing programs from closing, CUPE Ontario continues to urge the Liberals to develop a comprehensive early education and child care system plan, one that includes stabilization of existing services, real raises in wages in addition to pay equity allocations and expansion of affordable and needed non-profit licensed child care spaces at municipal and community-based centres.
For more information please contact:
Fred Hahn President, CUPE Ontario 416-540-3979
Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam CUPE Ontario 613-864-1061
Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications 416-559-9300