CUPE 543.4 members – 103 early years professionals with ABC Day Nursery of Windsor – have ratified a new three-year agreement. The ratification vote took place on April 13, with members voting 71% in favour of the deal.

While this deal ensures families will have uninterrupted quality child care provided by highly trained staff, it played out amidst widening cracks in the province’s early childhood workforce.

At the heart of this round of contract negotiations were challenges around recruiting and retaining a qualified and talented workforce at ABC Day Nursery’s five locations. Early childhood educators (ECEs) have been leaving the workplace for better wages and working conditions in local school boards while the average ECE lasts just three years in the sector.

“These challenges are not unique to this employer. This was one of many difficult rounds of negotiations in this sector and it stems from the Ford government’s blind insistence that they can build a province-wide child care system on the backs of workers,” explained Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario president. “We’re seeing underpaid and burnt-out workers leave job, mass shortages of trained early childhood educators, and centres shutter because of workforce challenges. Clearly their plan is not working.”

The funding agreement between the Federal and Provincial government that is underpinning the push towards $10-a-day care called for the Ministry of Education to release a “comprehensive recruitment and retention plan” by the fall of 2022. That plan has yet to be released. The Ministry did, however, hold consultations with owners and operators of both not-for-profit and for-profit child care centres.

“We’ve seen the documents, that’s part of the tragedy here. This government gathered people together to ask what challenges they face and the answer was nearly unanimous: attracting and recruiting staff,” said Christina Gilligan, Associate Coordinator with CUPE. Solutions include a salary scale equal to what early childhood educators earn in the school board system, a wage grid that incentivizes workers to stay in the sector, real career progression, and improved working conditions. “This government ignored the feedback, turned a blind eye to workers, and has done nothing to address the crisis now unfolding.”