A group of advocates for affordable, accessible child care took to the Saskatchewan legislature Wednesday to voice concerns over the availability of labour in the sector.
“We need to start paying people a professional wage. Right now we’re fairly low,” said Child Care Now Saskatchewan chairperson Sue Delaney.
Delaney was joined by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour as well as the Saskatchewan NDP in calling for the development of a provincial wage grid for child-care workers.
She didn’t provide a specific average wage for workers in the sector in Saskatchewan, but said many earn near-minimum wage — not enough, she says, to attract and retain the number of workers that will be needed to provide $10 per day child care in the province.
In August of 2021 the provincial government promised to achieve that price point, with the help of $1.1 billion in federal funding and 28,000 new child care spaces, by the end of 2025-26.
Delaney added “we have the lowest amount of regulated child care across the country. There’s not enough places and spaces.”
Saskatchewan child care and early learning critic Meara Conway said she’s heard from child-care workers that many have to work other jobs to fully support themselves.
“This is not okay. This is a profession engaged in the crucial work of shaping all other professions,” she said.
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“We know the social and economic benefits of a robust child-care system. We’re calling on the province to come up with a wage grid to address the labour crisis.”
Meara called into question recent government announcements about the creation of new child-care spaces.
“We see press releases from this government that they’re creating spaces in certain communities,” she said.
“But then we’re hearing on the ground quite often that those spaces are meaningless because they can’t actually staff them.”
Conway questioned Education Minister Dustin Duncan on the subject in question period Wednesday.
“We’re working towards developing a wage grid for the sector,” Duncan said in the chamber.
“We provided $9 million in this year’s budget for tuition training.”
He said that, since August of 2021, the province has 3,402 new child-care spaces.
Duncan added that $309.6 million was dedicated to child care and early child care education in the 2022-23 budget.
In a statement, the province added that “as of October 31, 2022 Saskatchewan has a total of 19,354 operational regulated child care spaces. The government also recently announced an application process for centres interested in applying for up to 598 additional spaces.”
“Saskatchewan is committed to attracting, retaining and growing a strong and skilled workforce of Early Childhood Educators, and therefore has provided wage enhancements of up to $5 per hour for Early Childhood Educators, provided free early childhood educator training in 2021-22 and 2022-23 and is creating a wage grid that will ensure early childhood educators receive competitive wages for their work,” the statement continues.
A National Day of Action for Child Care saw similar concerns raised in other parts of Canada Wednesday as well.