Children at Little People's Place in Shelburne are read a story.
“Little Peoples Place provides fundamental service to the community as a whole,” wrote a parent. “It nurtures families and children and it allows parents to work while their children are taken care of.”
What would you do, if you were not able to bring your child to daycare?
That is the question that the board of Little People’s Place directed to parents when they performed a virtual strike in the summer.
The staff and board staged a virtual strike in hopes of communicating to the community, parents and the government the importance of early childhood education and the issues that the centre faces.
Rather than actually striking, the board and staff chose to pretend that the staff were on strike and asked the parents to fill out a survey explaining what would they have done if they could not bring their child to daycare.
The results should that 88 per cent of parents are working or attending school while their child is at daycare and that of these 82 per cent would have missed work or school on the strike day.
If all of the licensed day cares in the province were to strike on the same day, there could be 25,000 people or more who would have to miss work or school.
“Through this virtual strike,” said director of the day care Susan Elliot. “The board and staff were hoping to educate parents and the community about childcare and how it is an important service and should be funded as such.”
According to a sent out to parents, the reason the board of Little People’s Place chose to take this action is that they value their employees and were shocked to learn how low salaries were for Early Childhood Education professionals.
Staff currently has limited benefits and no pension and there is no pay progression.
There is no way for the board to increase wages within their current budget to reward employee’s for their professional development, education or years of service.
Elliot said if they were to pay the centres teachers the proper wages, the fees for the daycare would have to be raised from $25 to $35 per day.
The board does not feel it can raise parent’s fees any higher and still ensure access to families in Shelburne County.
The centre has been told by government departments to run Little People’s Place like a business but it is a non-profit and the staff and board feel strongly that early learning and childcare is a community service and not a business.
Results of the strike were sent to both the local MLA and minister of community service, Hon Denise Peterson-Rafuse as well as to the director of Early Childhood Services.
“Wages are an ongoing issue at the centre,” said personnel chair of the board, Teresa Huskilson. “It is a balancing act maintaining both quality of care and fees.”
She said that with the low wages it is getting increasingly difficult to find new staff for day cares.
“It isn’t that we are undervalued by the parents who use our centre,” said Elliot. “The valuable services offered through our day cares needs to be heard by the general public and the government.”
“It is a women’s and children’s issue,” she continued. “Often women are the ones to make these decisions and today most women do not go to work to make extra money, they do it to put food on the table.”
Elliot would like to licensed daycares to receive funding from the government for teacher’s wages.
“We do receive grants from the government that we are very fortunate and pleased to receive,” she said.
The government has given one-time grants for renovation, energy and expansion in the past five years but Elliot said that those just maintain the status quo.
Currently, there are 20 children on the waiting list for the centre and 45 children in the day care. With additional funding the centre could risk expanding programs but without it is too big of a risk.
As a result there is up to a year waiting list for new childcare spaces.
There is also a waiting list for parents hoping for a subsidized space.
Most of the budget of the daycare goes to wages and benefits and the daycare must fundraise 10 per cent of their annual costs through fundraising events the last 20 per cent is through provincial grants.
“Day care is the reason my children are so well adjusted and do so well in social situation,” wrote one parent to the centre. “I attribute day care to the successes of both my children. I feel early childhood educators don’t get the proper funding or pay for their responsibilities and duties.”