"Early childhoood educators are being paid just a little bit over minimum wage, however the job they're doing is priceless and they should be paid accordingly," said Trish Martin, an early childhood resource co-ordinator in Cape Breton.
As the lowest paid in the country, early childhood educators in Nova Scotia make an average salary of $12-15 per hour. Martin said that figure needs to be in the range of $20-25 per hour.
"In order to continue with quality child care on Cape Breton Island, we need to pay the early childhood educators a very worthy wage," she said. "This is a valuable profession and we are moulding the future."
Martin made the comments while at the office of Glace Bay MLA and provincial cabinet minister Geoff MacLellan on Monday. She and three early childhood educators from Cape Breton visited MacLellan to present him with approximately 250 letters from parents from the Glace Bay and Sydney areas, as well as local early childhood educators.
"Most of the ones (from parents) I've read so far are personal stories, their plight with child care," Martin told MacLellan. "And as far as the early childhood education community, the staff themselves wrote letters on how they're struggling with minimum wages."
Monday's letter presentation is part of an ongoing, provincewide worthy-wage campaign by early childhood education workers seeking to raise awareness about their situation.
In particular, they're hoping to get the attention of the provincial government, with Martin noting that while early childhood educators want more money, they don't want it to come on the backs of parents - many of whom can't afford any increase in child-care costs.
That's why the province needs to step up and help bridge the gap, according to Martin.
If nothing changes, she fears more and more well-educated early childhood educators will move West to take jobs in higher-paying occupations. She said child-care centres on the island already can't keep up with demand for staff.
"I probably get five calls a week from (child care centre) directors asking if I have a sub list, which I used to have for early childhood educators, and I don't have one person on a sub list," she said. "I had someone come in last week and they were hired before they left the resource centre."
As a father who will soon have two kids in daycare, MacLellan said he appreciates the work that early childhood educators do and described what they're seeking as a "reasonable request."
"Both as the MLA for Glace Bay and as a dad, I see the work that's done at the Town Daycare (in Glace Bay) and I can tell you these folks are nurturing our children and they're providing a good base for our future," he said.
MacLellan said he has spoken to Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey about the issue on numerous occassions and pointed to an ongoing provincial education review as a process that may lead to some action.
read online at Cape Breton Post