The Saskatchewan Government’s approach to child care centres amidst COVID-19 is causing widespread confusion for child care providers.

“Saskatchewan’s child care centres are struggling with the impacts of COVID-19 – including declining enrolment, loss of income and uncertainty about potential closures,” said Judy Henley, President of CUPE Saskatchewan. “And there has been no clear direction from this government to child care centres, and the message they are delivering to our members is different from centre to centre.”

And now, due to the Sask Party’s changes to The Saskatchewan Employment Act, child care workers across the province are facing layoffs with no notice or compensation.

“We are already seeing the impact of the government’s decision to waive the layoff notice. Many of our members in the child care sector have been let go at the end of the day – with no notice or no compensation,” said Henley. “Even in a pandemic situation, every worker deserves adequate notice of job loss.”

CUPE Saskatchewan is calling for immediate measures to be put in place to protect child care workers, and parents.

“Quality, affordable child care is an important public service that Saskatchewan families rely on. We can’t let this pandemic jeopardize our provincial child care centres,” added Henley. “In addition, parents need assurance that they will retain their child care spot if they pull their children out without proper notice due to health concerns.”

Other jurisdictions across Canada are leading the way on this file. In British Columbia, child care centres that remain open are eligible to receive up to seven times their average funding from government, which is expected to cover approximately 75% of a group facility’s average monthly operating expenses. In Nova Scotia, parents will not pay for services not provided by licensed child care providers and the government will cover parents’ contributions to ensure that centres aren’t forced to close their doors and that employees will still be paid.

“We must look at immediately putting in place compensation for child care centres so they can continue to operate with reduced enrolment,” said Henley. “And in the event of child care closures, the province must provide funding to closed programs so that staff are paid, and parents are not charged fees.”

Several provinces, including Quebec and Newfoundland have continued to fund child care programs during closure so that operators can pay staff, not charge parent fees, and avoid financial distress themselves.

“The Saskatchewan government needs to take action to support parents and our province’s child care centres,” said Henley.