Child Care Worker and Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day is marked annually with considered messages of gratitude. But more than lip service, this day demands that we reflect on the role these critical workers play in our society and map a path forward to ensure they are supported.
If you listen to the Ford government, this sector is important because it allows parents to work. We felt the economic sting when child care centres closed during the pandemic. Every policy decision since then makes it clear that Premier Ford, Minister Lecce, and their cronies think these workers do little more than provide warehouses for children while the economy keeps chugging.
But if you ask child care workers what they are most proud of – and we have, with CUPE Ontario representing 5,000 child care workers, early childhood educators, and advocates for the sector – you hear something entirely different.
It’s not only the safety and care they provide. It’s not the profound economic return that their labour creates. It’s not even the purposeful play-based learning they stimulate.
These workers are proud of the communities they hold together. They are proud of their role as linchpins and supports for families. They are proud to make every child feel seen, safe, and valued. And they are proud to use everyday moments to instill lessons of empathy that will continue to guide the children in their care as they grow.
These workers are committed, skilled, and passionate. When they are short-changed by a government more interested in privatization and profits than ensuring every child in the province gets the care they need, all Ontarians suffer.
That is why CUPE Ontario’s 250,000 members are proud to join the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC) and allies across the province in the Worth More campaign, to ensure that high quality jobs match the high quality care parents deserve.
Ever since this government began rolling out the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care system, they have met with daycare providers and parents to hear their concerns and address their issues. They have systemically ignored workers.
Even in those meetings where worker voices were absent, one message was delivered clearly and consistently: there is no child care system without child care workers.
Months after the promised workforce strategy that would address the endemic shortage of trained early childhood educators, we are still waiting to hear the province’s plan to open up more spaces to families in need and ensure the child care system is not built on the backs of workers.
This complete absence of political leadership has caused a crisis in the sector. Families cannot access care while talented workers can’t afford to work in a sector they love because of tragically low wages.
We know the solution. A new report from the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care and the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario lays out the solution, including a publicly funded salary scale and immediate action to boost ECE and child care worker wages.
If the Ford government truly appreciated child care workers and early childhood educators, if they took seriously the needs of families and the future of children, they’d listen to workers.