“Make the long-overdue pay equity adjustments to home support employees and early childhood educators now!” That was the unanimous message given by workers and operators from both these sectors as well as the New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity to the New Brunswick government last week at a media conference in Moncton. Pay equity is achieved when jobs mostly done by women are paid the same as jobs that have the same value but are done mostly by men.
The Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, Margaret-Ann Blaney, recently said her government wanted to pay the home care and child care pay equity adjustments only once the group home and the transition house programs are completed, saying that: “Rather than doing things piecemeal, we would like to take the big picture and deal with the four sectors when all the evaluations have been completed.”
Andrea Ross, who has been in the field for 12 years, first as an early childhood educator and now as director of the Home with a Heart Child Care Centre, disagrees. “The pay equity process for early childhood educators began in 2007. The adjustments were expected in 2010-2011 and we were finally having some hope of being paid for the value of our work. But now, we are in 2011-2012 and we are being told we may have to wait until 2012-2013 and maybe even later. That is unfair and disheartening,” she said.
Home support workers also had high expectations. They often barely get paid the minimum wage. “Many of us are losing hope that we will ever get recognition for our work. We have been following the pay equity process in good faith since 2008, even though we already knew we were not getting paid enough. Now, we are wondering if we will ever see the results. And meanwhile, we still have to make ends meet while the price of food, gas and lodging keeps going up,” stated Thérèse Duguay, President of CUPE Local 4598, and a home support worker herself.
Operators of home support agencies and child care facilities have joined their voices to that of their employees. Bob Price, President of the NB Home Support Association, said that home support agencies need pay equity adjustments to be made now. “How can we recruit and retain workers without reasonable and fair pay? The extra costs of recruitment and training are seriously affecting our sector’s ability to provide the level of services we wish to provide. In addition quality employees are easily hired by others sectors of health care which are able to pay higher wages.”
Claudette Melanson, owner of the child care centre Nos petits camarades, faces the same situation. “We encourage childhood educators to invest in a college degree in early childcare and development, but it is difficult to recruit and retain qualified and committed staff because of the low wages in our sector,” she said. “The government wants to subsidize new daycare spaces. New spaces are good but we also need to address the high staff turnover and its impact on quality in the existing services.”
Marilyn MacCormack, Chair of the Coalition for Pay Equity, urges the government to act now. “It is bad enough that home support and child care workers have been underpaid for decades, without making them wait another year or more for adjustments expected last year. The government has a responsibility to end pay discrimination as soon as job evaluations and comparisons are completed.”
Marilyn MacCormack concluded that the government’s attempts to postpone pay equity adjustments only prove that a pay equity act is necessary for the private sector.