Childcare wage increase ‘an insult’

On May 24th, the Yukon government offered childcare operators more money for wages. “The release promised immediate funding,” said Yukon…

On May 24th, the Yukon government offered childcare operators more money for wages.

“The release promised immediate funding,” said Yukon Child Care Association president Cyndi Desharnais on Friday. “But we never got it.”

Three months later, the Yukon Party issued a second release.

On Thursday, Health and Social Services Minister Brad Cathers announced funding for childcare staff wages will “increase immediately by 30 per cent.”

It’s a repeat of the May 24th press release, said Desharnais.

“This is not a new release — it’s looking like it is, but it isn’t. It’s the same money.”

Since May, Desharnais had been phoning Cathers asking for the money.

“Keeping up with it is another whole job,” she said.

“A couple of weeks ago, I finally had enough and phoned him and said, ‘What’s the definition of immediate? We need something.’”

A few days later, Desharnais got a cheque.

But it’s not enough.

“I broke it down over the weekend,” she said on Monday. “And it’s absolutely terrible.”

Early childhood educators will be getting a raise of less than 10 cents an hour, said Desharnais.

“It’s an insult. I’m almost embarrassed to give it to my staff.”

“I wouldn’t even call it an increase,” said Little Paws Learning Centre director Terry-Anne Wasson.

“It’s very disrespectful to early childhood educators.”

The wage increase “will assist childcare operators with their staffing costs and assist in the recruitment and retention of childcare workers,” wrote Cathers in the release.

Desharnais and Wasson disagree.

“They’re not going to have any early childhood educators left in the Yukon if they don’t start paying them right,” said Wasson.

This meagre wage increase is not going to help recruit or retain any early childhood educators, added Desharnais.

“And it makes you wonder how this government views our children.”

Calling it a 30 per cent increase is deceptive, added Desharnais.

Staff will not see a 30 per cent wage increase.

The increase is not actually 30 per cent of the direct operating grant, she said.

It is only 30 per cent of the portion of that grant that deals with staff wages.

The rate paid to childcare operators for staff wages, will increase by 30 per cent, according to the release.

The increase will be retroactive to April 1.

“A retroactive cheque has been sent out to all programs, but early childhood educators haven’t actually seen the money because it just came to us, and it came to us with no formula,” said Desharnais.

Desharnais called Child Care Services to get the breakdown.

Depending on the level of staff training, every operator is going to get a different amount of money, she said.

Level-three childhood educators with two-year diplomas in early childhood development should get a larger wage increase than a level-one educator, with a 60-hour course.

But as it turns out, level-three educators will still be getting an increase of less than 10 cents an hour.

“And level-ones will be getting way less,” she said.

“What’s the incentive to get your level three if you’re not paid right?” added Wasson.

“The Yukon Party government has underfunded the childcare system for far too long,” said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell in a release last week.

In the spring, the Yukon Party promised to raise funding to childcare by $5 million over the next five years.

Childcare workers should expect a pay raise by early summer, said Cathers at the time.

The government plans to funnel $500,000 into the childcare system as soon as talks with shareholders are completed, he said.

The remaining $4.5 million will be distributed over the next four years.

“When the minister announced his half-measure this spring it was met by indifference from the childcare community and parents alike,” said Mitchell in the release.

“Everyone but the minister knows that $500,000 isn’t going to make a difference in wages for workers or to the amount of money that parents are paying each month.

“Instead of delaying and denying as he has done with changes at the hospital the minister should admit the system is underfunded and prepare a new budget for the fall sitting.”

Cathers refused comment.