Joe Byrne meets with Association reps

   There have been two very different responses to the call for a wage increase for PEI’s French-language early childhood educators.  On January 18th Jordan Brown, the Minister of Education, Early Learning and Culture, said that the $7 increase requested by workers in French centres “would throw the system out of balance.”

   NDP Leader Joe Byrne says “The idea that a livable wage puts a system out of balance is a good indication that the system is not working.”

   The professionals who educate children in provincially funded ECE centres now make $15.66 an hour.  They are asking for a boost to give  them pay equity with classroom education assistants, whose rate is $22. 

   Joe Byrne met on January 10th with representatives of the Association of French-language early childhood educators.  They explained that low remuneration is a major factor in the shortage of staff. That means, they say, that there are now 120 empty spaces in the system which cannot be offered to parents.

   The clear problem, Association representatives told the NDP Leader, is that recruitment is next to impossible.  The 2010 promise (by the Ghiz Government) of an annual 3% increase was not fulfilled.  And so PEI’s rate of just $15.66 an hour cannot attract people into ECE training when it compares with a range of $19 to $23 in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, or $22 for an educational assistant in the public schools.

   Joe Byrne feels that these are among the most important people in society — those who engage and help develop our children at the beginning stages.  And he poses the question: “Do we value their training, responsibility, and impact so much less than other professional educators?”

   Minister Brown justified his reluctance to grant the requested wage increase on grounds that it would cause a hike in fees parents would have to pay.

   Joe Byrne’s observation: “You can’t have an essential service built on the backs of poorly paid professionals.  NDP PEI calls for a liveable income for pre-school educators, which means a boost of at least $7 an hour.  And what we really need,” Byrne adds, “is a province-wide system based on the Quebec model of affordable child care which the New Democratic Party has been advocating for years.