Public daycare workers in P.E.I. can expect a wage increase this year.
On Thursday, Education and Lifelong Learning Minister Brad Trivers confirmed that a $700,000 allocation for early childhood education wages will be applied for wage increases in 2020.
Trivers was asked about the matter by his Progressive Conservative colleague Sidney MacEwen during question period.
"The wage grid increase is something that's been a long-time coming in the early years sector. And so, yes, it will be happening in this fiscal year," Trivers said.
"I'm pleased to announce, right here, right now, that we are going to continue to increase the wage grid for the next three years, year-over-year."
The starting wages for early childhood educators within early years centres range from $14.48 per hour to $18.61, depending on the level of training and education. The wages also increase yearly up to the fifth year on the job.
Wage increases for ECEs were announced by the previous Liberal government on the eve of the last provincial election in the spring of 2019. That increase occurred following a public campaign on the part of early childhood educators.
Trivers said the new funding will mean a 50 cent per hour wage increase for those with level one certification, a $1 per hour increase for those with level two and a $1.50 wage increase for those with level 3.
"That's what we'd be looking at for the next three years as well," Trivers said.
Trivers added the goal is to see the wages for early childhood educators be on par with educational assistants in the school system, who have similar training but receive higher pay. P.E.I.’s childcare centres often have difficulty maintaining staff because well-trained educators often become educational assistants.
Since the province began its phased-in reopening plan, Trivers said about 2,200 children have been enrolled in early years centres, the province’s licensed centres. During the pandemic, over 90 per cent of children of essential workers were enrolled in unlicensed, private centres. These centres do not abide by the ECE wage rates.
The Guardian asked the department how many children are currently enrolled in private centres but did not hear back by deadline.
Having access to childcare will play a crucial role in the province’s economic recovery, particularly for female workers.
Trivers faced questions from Liberal MLA Robert Mitchell about the province’s plans in the likelihood of a second wave of COVID-19.
“What steps are you taking now to ensure Island parents will have reliable access to childcare, so they are able to work if, indeed, there is a second wave on the way?” Mitchell asked.
“We’re fully prepared if, for some reason, we have to have a second outbreak and students aren’t in schools. We’re going to use that school space, we’re going to use it for child care and we’re going to do it safely,” Trivers responded.
“We’re going to follow the CPHO guidelines. Everything is in place to do that.”