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Nova Scotia ECEs stage protest outside education minister’s office, call for living wage

Click to play video: 'N.S. early childhood educators still asking for better wages'
N.S. early childhood educators still asking for better wages
WATCH: Early childhood educators from across the province took a recess from their duties today to call for better wages. They gathered outside education minister Becky Druhan's office, claiming the minister is dragging her feet when it comes to fair compensation. Graeme Benjamin reports. – Sep 8, 2022

Early childhood educators (ECEs) from across Nova Scotia gathered outside the education minister’s office Thursday morning, protesting what they’re calling inaction on their compensation package.

The group began their day of action at Grand Parade, then marched through downtown Halifax to Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Becky Druhan’s office on Brunswick Street.

“I’m here because we’re tired of waiting and not knowing when we’re getting raises,” says Jasmin MacFarlane, who’s been an early childhood educator for the past six years.

“We really deserve more.”

Read more: Nova Scotia ECE wages and retention top agenda of upcoming meeting

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has said it will provide a wage top-up for early childhood educators this fall. But protesters on Thursday said the fall is too late.

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“ECEs are struggling. Struggling to buy food, struggling to find a place to live that they can actually afford,” said Elizabeth Conrad, a 35-year early childhood educator.

“I don’t understand why if the federal government has allocated funds for a wage compensation package, why that has not been allocated

As it stands now, the wage floor for early childhood educators in Nova Scotia is between $15 and $19 per hour, depending on their training. According to a report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released Wednesday, the living wage rate in Halifax is $23.50 per hour.

“Straight out of high school I wanted to get into early education, but I had teachers that tell me don’t do it because it’s not livable,” said Brooklyn Last, who only became an ECE this week.

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“Now, there’s too many kids and not enough workers because no one can make a livable wage.”

Click to play video: 'N.S. early childhood educators waiting on promised wage increases'
N.S. early childhood educators waiting on promised wage increases

Minister Druhan was on hand at the beginning of the protest, speaking with ECEs herself. But those she spoke with say they left the conversation disappointed.

“She said, ‘Thanks for coming out,’ and I was like, ‘Where is the money?'” said Bobbi Keating, a 33-year ECE who spoke with Druhan during the protest.

“She said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s coming, it’s going to roll out, it’s just going to be a matter of weeks.’ And I said, ‘Any minute we wait is too long.'”

Read more: Nova Scotia to create 1,500 new daycare spaces by the end of this year

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Druhan says she hears the concerns from ECEs, but wants to make sure the wage increase is done right.

“We are going to deliver on this as soon as possible,” said Druhan. “Our ECEs have been waiting for decades for compensation that is fair and that recognizes the incredible value of the work that they do, and that’s what we will deliver.”

But ECEs feel the province is dragging its feet.

“That’s really frustrating when you have the Minister of Education, who’s holding the cheque, and she says, ‘I don’t know why you’re walking out,'” said Keating.

— with files from Eilish Bonang. 

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