Frustrated with wages, Cape Breton daycare workers threaten to walk off the job
Some daycare workers in Cape Breton are meeting this week and say they may walk off the job if their concerns are not addressed.
"I feel very defeated. I'm upset," said Patricia Landry Martin, co-director of the Sydney Daycare. "I've been in the field for 35 years and for the most part I make less than a lot of the pre-primary teachers."
Landry Martin says the issue is with wages and pensions since the government rolled out its pre-primary program in 2016. Daycares across the province are a having tough time with recruitment.
"It's an absolute crisis," said Landry Martin. "We can't find early childhood educator substitutes trained. It's actually near impossible to find full-time early childhood educators."
Martin says she reached out to the education minister before going public with her concerns, but was redirected to another department.
Now, she and others are threatening to walk off the job.
Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill says he's open to having a discussion.
"We have a vested interest in the regulated childcare sector," said Churchill. "We invest close to $70 million a year to subsidize that sector. That subsidizes wages and helps employers have more competitive wages."
Churchill says since the introduction of the pre-primary program, 500 new jobs have been created across the province. He admits it has created some labour pressures, but says the province is responding.
"We've responded by increasing the subsidy to that sector," Churchill says. "Every single regulated child-care centre that applies for a grant through our department has received it. Every single one that applied."
Martin will meet with other daycares in Cape Breton this week. She hopes parents back her as well.
"If we are going to close the centre and have a walk-out through the week," said Landry Martin. "We need to educate our parents about what's going on. We have to ask for their support."
It's a message that Landry Martin hopes will lead to long-term solutions.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kyle Moore.