ESPANOLA—The Manitoulin Sudbury District Service Board (DSB) is calling on the province to “walk the talk” in meeting the new $14 minimum wage when it comes to student job funding. While the province has provided top-up funding for service managers when it comes to early child care workers at local daycares, so parent fees do not have to rise to meet the increased staffing costs, the Ministry of Advanced Skills Development appears to be lagging when it comes to doing the same for the student job grant programs.
“We did receive $65,577 as our portion of the Fee Stabilization Support Funding that was announced last October,” confirmed DSB CAO Fern Dominelli. “That was to help deal with increasing operating pressures that could have led to increases in parental fees in licenced daycares.” The province allocated $37.5 million in funding to cover the increased costs anticipated for between April and December of this year.
Luckily, that funding does not require any co-payment contribution from the service managers such as the DSB in enhancing wages at daycares.
“Surprisingly enough, we did have a number of people who fell into that category,” said Mr. Dominelli. Although the DSB pay scale for a trained early childhood educator (ECE) would exceed the $14 an hour threshold, he explained, the shortage of qualified ECEs has meant that a number of daycare staff employed by the DSB agencies fall into an “otherwise qualified” category that brings a lower wage.
The challenge, noted Mr. Dominelli, is that the wages paid by larger entities so far exceeds that which the DSB can afford to meet that certified ECEs quickly move on to other agencies where the pay is better. “We train them and they take them,” said Mr. Dominelli. “It is a challenge; how do we increase the available number of ECEs and PSWs coming out of our colleges to meet the demand.”
But when it comes to the student job grants program, Mr. Dominelli said the province has not kept pace with the changes in wages.
“We have not received any indication that they will be increasing the funding available in those programs,” he noted. “If I can send a student to an employer for seven weeks, and can only pay for six weeks, what is that saying? They are quick to shame corporations for not living up to the new wage guidelines, but right now they are not providing any additional dollars for that program.”
Mr. Dominelli said that he did hope that the province would see the light and increase funding to those programs where the minimum wage rise is a factor.
“It just isn’t right,” said DSB Chair Les Gamble. “The province puts everybody else to shame for not stepping up and paying, but they aren’t doing it themselves.”