Early childhood education workers warm themselves by a fire outside Sunshine Valley Child Care on Dec. 19 during a one-day strike.  (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Early childhood education workers warm themselves by a fire outside Sunshine Valley Child Care on Dec. 19 during a one-day strike. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Sunshine Valley Child Care staff strike for higher wages, benefits

After several months of negotiations, union and management have not settled ‘long-standing issues’

Parents with children enrolled in daycare or preschool programs with the Sunshine Valley Child Care Society had to find different options for their kids’ care on Thursday, as the centre’s workers donned sandwich board signs and stood outside their workplace around a campfire to keep warm during their strike for higher wages and health benefits.

The move to strike came after the union representing child care and education workers at the facility and management failed after several months to settle on a new collective agreement. Workers confirmed their plans with parents on Dec. 17.

According to the BC Government and Services Union (BCGEU), which represents the staff at the Grand Forks facility, the two parties have not yet come to terms on how to settle “long-standing issues” including low wages, discussions arounds benefits and “significant issues with recruitment and retention.”

In B.C., the median wage for an early childhood educator is $17 per hour, according to 2018 provincial data.

According to the workers’ most recent collective agreement, a senior ECE at the facility makes between $17 and $18 an hour, depending on their level of certification. Employees’ wages at the centre are also supplemented by a $1 per hour provincial wage enhancement that was implemented in early 2018 but applied retroactively through to Sept. 2018. The province has announced that they will double the enhancement in April 2020.

No health benefits are detailed beyond a paid sick leave of up to 15 days in the contract between Sunshine Valley Child Care and the union.

“Our members’ goal is to deliver quality, professional child care to the children and families of Grand Forks, but too many years of low pay and no health and welfare benefits have led them to a crisis point,” said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith in a press release.

In an email sent to parents of children enrolled with Sunshine Valley Child Care, the society’s Board of Directors said that the society has “worked in good faith to negotiate a fair sustainable increase to wages, noting that pay increases “will come directly from the increase to parent fees and all profits that were made last year to cover wages retroactively.”

For the non-profit, “The only other option to approve higher wage increases would be to leverage the building and we think that is fiscally irresponsible and unsustainable,” the board said in the same email.

According to the centre’s executive director, Fatima Faria, more than 90 per cent of Sunshine Valley Child Care’s revenue accrued through family fees and BC gaming grants currently goes towards staff wages.

Faria also said that last year was a record year for enrolment at the centre and that Sunshine Valley had to turn away three children with special needs that they could not accommodate.

“For early childhood educators to vote to take job action, I think really speaks to an end of rope situation, if you will,” said Smith. “This would not have been an easy decision for the staff to take.”

The parties are expected to resume negotiations in January.


@jensenedw
Jensen.edwards@grandforksgazette.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Grand Forks RCMP and Grand Forks Fire/Rescue near the scene of a motor vehicle accident Thursday evening, Jan. 21, in the vicinity of Highway 3 near the intersection of Danshin Village Road. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
First responders attend Highway 3 crash near Grand Forks

It is not known how many people were involved in the accident

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

The bill was discussed at Grand Forks Social Services Advisory Group’s last meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 20. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks City Hall spends around $6,000 on recent Moto clean up

The city’s bill came up for discussion at the Social Services Advisory Group on Wednesday, Jan. 20

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers first, especially those dealing with long-term care facilities. (Nathan Denette - Canadian Press)
General public shouldn’t expect vaccines until fall: Interior Health South Okanagan Similkameen

Interior Health focused on vaccinating long-term and first-line care workers

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Most Read