The Yellowknife Day Care Association says it will start paying staff a living wage this month, resulting in higher monthly fees for members.
In a letter on Thursday, the association’s board of directors told families its newly approved 2022 budget includes a pay increase for employees to provide what is considered a living wage in Yellowknife.
As a result, the letter said, member fees will increase by $150 a month beginning April 1. Summer camp fees will increase from $225 to $290 a week.
“We believe that this is a necessary step to ensure the YKDA continues to provide high-quality culturally and developmentally appropriate early childhood education,” the letter states, adding the new rates are in line with those for other private childcare options in Yellowknife.
The board said it is looking at other ways to cover the wage increase, like alternative revenue sources and reducing expenses, and is willing to work with families who need assistance paying monthly fees.
|Age group||Current monthly fee||New monthly fee|
|Under 2 years||$1,035||$1,185|
A living wage refers to the hourly pay rate required to cover basic expenses. According to a 2019 report from Alternatives North, the living wage for a single adult in Yellowknife is between $23.08 and $25.09 per hour. The minimum wage across the NWT was raised to $15.20 in September.
‘A big deal’
Ryan Fequet, president of the day care association, said parents have been supportive of the decision to increase wages while staff are appreciative.
“Many cried because [for] some people, it means they can not work a second or a third job,” he said. “An extra five bucks an hour is kind-of a big deal.”
Fequet said he hopes other organizations will follow suit, adding the pandemic has illustrated how critical early childhood education services are.
The inadequacy of wages often provided to early childhood educators in the North has long been an issue.
During a forum on early childhood education in the NWT last October, participants said many early childhood educators have to take second jobs to make a living. Poor wages and burnout were identified as factors in high staff turnover and challenges to recruitment in the sector.
The board of the Yellowknife Day Care Association said providing a living wage begins to address that concern and, it hopes, will sustain the workforce while acknowledging the importance of early childhood education.
“It’s traditionally been a sector run by women, and it still continues to be dominated by women and has continued to be underpaid, and that’s not OK,” Fequet said. “This is part of trying to balance that scale.”
Families across the territory, meanwhile, are facing high costs for childcare. Participants at the forum acknowledged the cost of daycare and early childhood education programs can be prohibitive for some families, meaning the most vulnerable children lose out.
Politicians and advocates have called on the territorial government to better fund the sector and support affordable childcare across the NWT.
Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly recently noted in the Legislative Assembly that other jurisdictions, including the Yukon, have signed $10-a-day universal childcare agreements with the federal government.
NWT education minister RJ Simpson said the territory plans to finalize its childcare agreement by the end of 2021, but indicated it likely won’t reach the $10-a-day mark for another five years.