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Ontario early childhood educators still waiting for promised 2024 wage increases

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Ontario Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) are still waiting for their promised 2024 wage increases and advocates say the delay is causing stress for workers and contributing to the ongoing staffing shortage.

In November 2023, the Doug Ford government pledged to increase the minimum wage for RECEs to $23.86 an hour, a nearly $4-bump from what they were expected to get that year. The new wage floor would be implemented in 2024, officials said at the time, with additional $1 raises implemented every year until 2026—at which time they are supposed to make $25.86 an hour.

However, staff have yet to see any of the additional money they were promised.

“I think overall, what this has just reinforced for us, is that this isn't a priority for Ontario,” Alana Powell, RECE and Executive Director at Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario, told CTV News Toronto in an interview Friday.

Powell said that when the announcement was made, it felt like the government was suggesting that staff could expect to see wage increases on their January pay cheques.

Instead, the government appears to be slowly fulfilling its promise.

In a March memo sent to municipal service managers, the government indicates the new wages went into effect on Jan. 1. However, the memo goes on to say they expect cities to flow the cash to child-care operators by the end of April.

Additional provincial payments to those service managers, however, aren't expected until the summer.

“Starting in June 2024, payments to (service system managers) will include the incremental funding related to the 2024 workforce strategy allocation, with an initial lump sum payment to cover funding requirements from January to June, with the remaining funding to be paid monthly after this,” the memo says.

Powell noted there is confusion over the timeline and when RECEs will actually get their paycheques.

“The promise of it being retroactive is good,” she said. “But in terms of life and planning and affordability, waiting and the uncertainty of it has been really stressful.”

“We even saw last week an early childhood educator started a GoFundMe to help pay her bills because she’s struggling that much and she’s certainly not alone.”

When asked by CTV News, the government did not provide an explanation as to why the wages have been delayed, saying only that the process takes time.

“We appreciate that these payments must get out as quickly as possible, that is why we are working with municipalities (service system managers) to ensure all eligible RECEs receive their full back pay in wage increases,” a spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office said in a statement.

A position paper suggested last year that Ontario early childhood educators were among the lowest paid in Canada, and advocates warned at the time this could create a “perfect storm” amid a workforce shortage.

Ministry officials have warned Ontario could be short at least 8,500 RECEs by 2026 as the province adds more child-care spaces under the federal program.

Carolyn Ferns of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care said in October the workforce crisis was causing local childcare programs to close rooms and limit enrollment. She told CTV News Toronto this week that she was a big supporter of the government’s promised wage increase in the fall.

“That was supposed to come in 2024 and … I had child-care workers like RECEs emailing me in January, saying ‘why isn't this on my paycheck.’”

“I think everybody thought it was gonna start like this year,” she added. “(The wage increase) is a big difference. That's something that you're really counting on.”

The increase applies to RECEs working in child-care facilities who opt in to the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) system, which will eventually result in an average fee of $10 per day for parents with children under the age of six in licensed child care by September 2025.

With files from The Canadian Press

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