All early childhood educators (ECEs) in Nova Scotia deserve to be compensated the same wages, pensions and benefits, regardless of where they work, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing hundreds of ECEs in both pre-primary school classrooms and child care centres across the province.

At a news conference held today in Halifax, Nova Scotia Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Zach Churchill announced that more spaces will be created in child care centres.

However, once again, the minister failed to address serious issues of fair compensation, recruitment and retention in the sector. “The people who educate our children deserve to make living wages that allow them to lead healthy, productive lives and to retire with dignity,” says CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen. “Most of the early childhood educators who currently work in child care centres will retire in poverty. That’s unacceptable.”

“All ECEs work under the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Why then is there such disparity in wages and benefits for ECEs in Nova Scotia?” asks McFadgen. “All of these educators teach ‘play-based learning’. In fact, ECEs have been providing play-based learning in child care centres for more than 16 years, long before Minister Churchill rolled out the new early learning program.”

A report released in January 2019 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia, using the most up-to-date wage data currently available, shows that “ECEs in Nova Scotia still earn the lowest wages in the country ($16.05)”. Wages for ECEs working in child care centres range from $15 to $21 per hour, depending on qualification level, years of service and employer. Based on a 35-hour work week, these ECEs earn approximately $27,000 to $38,000. In comparison, wages for ECEs working in Halifax pre-primary classrooms range from $27,000 to $46,000 annually, depending on qualification level and years of service.

It’s also important to note that most ECEs working in child care centres do not have pensions and benefits, which all ECEs in pre-primary classrooms have.

“If you were a new graduate, which workplace would you choose? Pre-primary classroom in schools that offer pensions and benefits, or a child care centre that does not offer a pension or benefits?” asks McFadgen. “The minister’s pre-primary program continues to destabilize this sector of work.”

“We’re happy to hear that the funding partnership between the federal and provincial governments will continue and that more spaces are being created. However, the minister continues to discount what ECEs have shared about their experiences,” says McFadgen. “What ECEs have been saying is that any plan to create more spaces must also include a comprehensive strategy for recruitment and retention of ECEs at every qualification level. We look forward to working together to rectify this issue.”

“There is so much more work to be done that the minister is not addressing in his plans, starting with the same fair wages and benefits for every early childhood educator in the province,” states McFadgen.