NS private childcare centers battle ‘staffing crisis’ as pay deal deadline looms – Halifax | Jobi Cool

Despite the Nova Scotia government offering salary increases for early childhood educators (ECE), the province was met with criticism during Friday’s legislative session. The opposition, a private daycare provider and a group representing ECEs all took aim at Houston’s government.

Earlier this month, the Education and Development Minister announced $100 million annually to raise ECE wages, with the wage floor retroactively increasing to between $19.10 and $21.67 an hour.

But Lisa Beddow, who owns six day care centers offering 423 spaces, says more money is needed to tackle key challenges within the sector.

“We are looking to be able to raise our prices or get additional operating financing to cover our costs,” she told reporters. “With food and fuel, and now wage increases, there is an increased burden on us.

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Provincial Education and Development Minister Becky Druhan says the wage increases are part of a “historic transformation” for the care sector.

Callum Smith / Global News

“The cost keeps going up and up and up and we just can’t keep up with it,” she explains.

She says that about 10 private daycares have closed in the last year, but predicts that number will rise.

“We’ve polled our private operators and we’re close to that 25 percent gap that ‘looks to close in the next 12 months’.”

She says her group consists of 196 private operators. Beddow says that while some ECEs have been quite happy with the salary increase, it presents operational funding challenges.

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“The new contract limits the number of hours we can claim for our preschool teachers in our classrooms,” she says. “For example, we would previously have received funding for additional support staff for toilet training, e.g. [and for] children with special needs. It is now limited by the number of hours a day we can have our teachers in the classroom.”

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But the operators were given only 30 days to sign the agreement, with a deadline of November 14. Beddow says that doesn’t allow enough time to properly review the plan to see if it makes financial sense.

“Historic Transformation”

The provincial education minister defended the government’s $100 million investment in salary increases.

“This is a historic transformation,” says Becky Druhan, Secretary of Education and Early Childhood Development. “This is a five-year transformation in a sector that has been neglected and neglected for decades.

In response to the opposition’s concerns during Question Time, Druhan shared a letter from another daycare operator who was very grateful for the wage increases.

But Nikki Jamieson, manager of Child Care Now Nova Scotia, which represents ECE, says many won’t earn a salary despite the increases.

“We have a huge staffing crisis in this province and the fact that the government promised the minimum wage in the country. [federal-provincial child care agreement] which is directly written into the contract and not keeping that promise should be top of mind,” says Jamieson.

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Nikki Jamieson, manager of Child Care Now Nova Scotia, which represents ECE, says many people will not earn a salary despite the increases.

Callum Smith / Global News

Druhan says the province will bring in retirement benefits for ECEs and that their salaries will be tied to public sector raises next year.

Nova Scotia has pledged to create 9,500 new early learning and care spaces by 2026, with 1,500 of those new seats in place by the end of this year. Those promises are tied to its $605 million deal with the federal government to create $10-a-day child care.

But opposition party leaders say the government is dropping the ball.

“We were promised expansion and we’re seeing a recession,” says NDP Leader Claudia Chender. “And we’re not just seeing a decline among private operators, we’re seeing a decline among public operators.”

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Nova Scotia ECE salaries and retention top agenda for upcoming meeting

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“The big pressure on the private sector right now is that they’ve been asked to sign a contract that will upend their business model, turn them from for-profit to not-for-profit, where they’re not even in control of their operations anymore, possibly,” says Liberal Leader Zach Churchill.

But the pressure is not only increasing on the financial side of daycare centers, there is also a lot of pressure on parents.

“We are inundated with hundreds of calls every week from families who don’t have care,” says Beddow.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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