Parents protest wage rise for B.C. nannies

Letter writers to premier asked for increase in room and board deductions

After B.C. raised its minimum wage last year, many parents protested that they would no longer be able to hire nannies to care for their children.

Due to this rise and other factors, there was a huge decrease in the number of nannies working through B.C. referral agencies last year, said Manuela Gruber Hersch, president of the Association of Caregivers and Nanny Agencies Canada. She told the Courier she is much worried for the future of the industry.

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After being frozen for 10 years, B.C.s wage rose last May from the lowest in Canada, $8 an hour, to $8.75. It will climb again this May to the highest in the nation, $10.25.

Under the Live-in caregiver program of the federal Human Resources Department, foreign nannies must complete 24 months or 3,900 hours as a live-in caregiver, at which point they can apply for Permanent Residence status. These nannies (usually Filipino) arriving from overseas, usually started at $8 per hour in B.C. in a job that few Canadians want.

We agree with the increase but not as steep, perhaps spread out over more time, said Hersch, adding that the $9 special wage for liquor servers would have sufficed for nannies too.

Some parents concerns were clear in emails they sent to Premier Christy Clark. The Courier obtained the correspondence through the freedom of information act (with all names properly withheld for privacy).

Some parents claimed the wage rise would cost them an extra $400 per month, or $4,800 a year (although one conceded, I recognize that this historically undervalued work is both taxing and requires great skill). For one writer, There is nothing more stressful than worrying about who is looking after your children while you are at work. We love our nanny. She is part of our family and we need to keep her. This is an impossible situation for us and right now there is just no answer.

This choice becomes even harder for women striving to balance work and family by working part-time, said another. We will be back to a revolving door of unqualified and unreliable caregivers.

One member of a couple said the higher cost of child care makes it very difficult for us both to maintain careers.

Another factor is that most nannies live in the parents home, and the province allows the family to deduct a maximum of $325 per month from the nannys wages, for her room and board. (This is the third highest provincial rate in Canada, after Ontario and Alberta. The Atlantic provinces rates are set at $220, and Quebec allows no room and board deductions for nannies at all.)

The writers to the premier pleaded for the $325 rate to be boosted, to keep pace with the wage hike and rising food and utility costs. Others asked for the amount parents could claim as an income tax deduction for child care expenses to be increased.

Beyond nannies, some employers also objected to the effect of the wage hike to caregivers of their special needs children, the disabled and elderly.

The labour minister wrote back to defend the policy, but added, That being said, government recognizes your concern that any increase in the minimum wage will have some negative impact on certain employers who are faced with higher labour costs.

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