child playingThe Government of Saskatchewan has declared May 10 as Early Childhood Educator (ECE) Appreciation Day. CUPE, Saskatchewan’s largest child care union, is calling for better working conditions, and a voice for workers at the table during the roll out of the provincial-federal funding agreement.

“Child care workers play a crucial role in the development and education of young children. They provide a safe and nurturing environment for children to learn and grow, and they help to lay the foundation for future learning and success,” said Judy Henley, president of CUPE Saskatchewan. “I am glad the government is recognizing their hard work, but appreciation doesn’t mean much when compensation and working conditions for early childhood educators is completely inadequate.”

Child care workers are predominately women and have historically been grossly undervalued and underpaid for the critical work they provide in caring for and educating our children. Low wages, lack of full-time jobs, poor benefits and lack of workplace pensions all contribute to recruitment and retention issues, which are overriding challenges in developing an affordable, accessible, inclusive, and high-quality early learning and child care program. A search of the SaskJobs website on May 9, 2023 (at 7:30 p.m.) found there were 132 Early Childhood Educator jobs available.

“Investing in early childhood educators and guaranteeing that they are fairly compensated will help to ensure that children have the best possible start in life,” added Henley.

CUPE is also concerned about the lack of stakeholder engagement in the rollout of the provincial-federal funding agreement.

“We are strongly urging the government to make sure workers and child care providers are at the table during the development and implementation of the workforce strategy. Right now, the government is rolling out plans and policies with little or no consultation and it is a recipe for disaster,” said Henley.

Across Canada, CUPE represents about 12,000 members who work in the child care sector or work delivering ECE programs. In Saskatchewan, CUPE represents approximately 270 child care workers covered by 11 different collective agreements. These members work in non-profit workplaces located in Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Melfort and Yorkton.