‘We’re not glorified babysitters’: Ontario child care workers push for higher pay


Child care workers will be rallying across Ontario Wednesday, calling for better pay to keep daycare centres properly staffed.

Workers in the north say the high turnover will keep families from getting the much-anticipated $10 dollar per day care.

“Like we’re getting resignation letters almost every week right now. Because it’s not an easy job,” said Cristina Scagnetti, a lead educator with Discovery Early Learning at Holy Trinity Catholic Elementary School in Sudbury. 

“It’s not necessarily that they’re unhappy, they just need more money.”

Morning North6:28Northern Ontario daycare workers rally for respect and higher pay

It’s a day of action for child care professionals across Ontario, warning that low pay is leading to high turnover, understaffing and ultimately longer wait lists. We hear the experiences of three early childhood educators in Greater Sudbury: Heather Harris, Amanda Rose and Cristina Scagnetti.

The 35-year-old has worked in day care for 12 years and has seen many co-workers come and go in that time. Many move on to the school boards that tend to pay much better, but in recent years they’ve also been quitting to work as janitors or in call centres. 

“They can go take a week training and work in the trades and make triple what we’re making right now,” said Amanda Rose, a registered child educator at Discovery’s site at St. John school in Garson.

“Like I’ve been tempted right up to the interview and then when it comes down to it, I want to do what I love.”

“I don’t want to go to another career just because of the money that’s going to be in my pocket when I’m not going to be making the impact that I have with these children.”

Heather Harris wears a grey and green sweater, leaning on a shelf with Christmas decorations behind her.
Heather Harris, 32, has worked in child care in Greater Sudbury for seven years and feels early childhood educators need to be seen and paid like the professionals they are. (Erik White/CBC)

Heather Harris, 32, is getting ready to return to work at a Garson daycare after being on maternity leave for her second child.

“I had family members say ‘When are you getting a real job?'” she said.

“It’s really upsetting because I feel this is a real job and it’s a real important job in our community.”

Scagnetti, whose job includes helping to set the schedule, says the lack of staff has forced her to deny summer holidays and watch workers come in when they should be home sick. 

“It is at that point where they know that when they’re calling in, it’s stressful. It affects everybody. So people are coming into work sick,” she said.

Scagnetti says being short-staffed also affects the children, who are ideally left to learn and explore on their own even if it takes longer than scheduled, but that requires having enough educators to make sure strict child-to-adult ratios are maintained. 

“Right now you have to bend those values a little bit to make the day work,” she said. 

Cristina Scagnetti stands in a hallway with overhead fluorescent lights and cubbies with bins of children clothes next to her
Cristina Scagnetti, a lead educator at the daycare at Holy Trinity school in Sudbury, says they get resignation letters from employees almost every week. (Erik White/CBC)

Rose feels that child care workers were largely left out of the debate about $10 dollar a day child care, which has started to be phased in in Ontario, with the goal of reaching that rate by 2025.

The 28-year-old says without better pay, benefits and pension plan to keep people in the profession too often dismissed as “glorified babysitters” there won’t be enough workers to provide that service to the families that need it. 

“Everybody’s wait list is huge. There’s not the spots for all these children that are out there that now can afford the child care,” she said. 

Harris says that is going to be hard to communicate to parents who are excited about the lower rates.

“It is going to be hard, because they’re saying ‘Yes, $10 we can afford it! That’s great! Where’s the spots?’ Oh, I’m sorry, you’re going to have to wait two, three years before you get a spot,” she said. 

Two rows of kids wearing coats and hats line up to go outside and play at the Echo Bay public school outside of Sault Ste. Marie.
Childcare workers warn that without better pay and benefits, daycare centres won’t be properly staffed to be able to provide the $10 per day child care expected to arrive in Ontario in 2025. (Erik White/CBC)

A statement from the Ministry of Education trumpets the child care agreement Ontario reached with the federal government earlier this year, which includes $149.9 million in one time funding to support and retain the current workforce.

The province says that agreement comes with pay increases for educators who work with children under 5 and it is spending $395 million to ensure those assigned to children aged 6 to 12 also benefit from the wage hike. 

“Ontario has a plan to hire thousands more workers and increase wages for all [registered early child educators] to ensure child care is both accessible in all regions of Ontario and affordable for parents,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in the statement. 

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