« Geneva Daycares in Danger » is based on a conversation with Kristina Babina (founder of the TotUp Creche chain) and an email exchange with Mme Sophie Demaurex (member of Geneva’s Grand Conseil, from the Partie Socialiste).
We all know how hard it is to get a place in a public creche (eng. daycare). Many of us know that currently, even private daycares have waiting lists. Yes, this is how bad the situation is. The crisis of childcare solutions in Geneva has been an ongoing problem for years.
The country needs people to work. The country needs new people to be born. Until humans can be grown in labs and raised by robots, it’s parents’ job. How can people work and have kids if there is no available childcare?
Public and private daycares or official nannies called mamans du jours are all in high demand. Some families resort to hiring a nanny, not always knowing the rules (e.g. sharing one nanny by two or more families is not allowed). Other families decide that one parent will quit their job to stay home with kids (surprise, surprise, it’s most often the mom!).
Private daycares are now obliged to implement the CCT agreement. CCT is a set of 20 rules. One private daycare manager from TotUp tells me the problem is with 3 of those rules:
- Obligatory 7 weeks of vacations for employees.
- CCT requires a 70/30 split of social charges between the employer and the employee. Currently, this daycare does 50/50, as 90% of companies in Switzerland do. Just respecting that would put TotUP into bankruptcy.
- In public daycares, salaries are based on years of experience, while in TotUP, we believe (as all other private businesses) that salary should be based on capabilities, motivation and performance.
CCT is a collective labour agreement already implemented in many institutions. Now, the canton wants private daycares to oblige by it as well. We all want people who care for our kids to have excellent working conditions (psst: it even makes me dream of becoming an educator in a public creche).
So, what is wrong with this law?
Its consequences. As explained to me by Kristina Babina, the founder of TotUp Creche, it will force her to close her daycares in Geneva. Such a pity! Especially, that TotUp was planning to open more structures in the canton of Geneva.
Municipalities subsidise public daycares. What parents pay covers only around 20% of the costs. Private daycares are not subsidized and parents must cover the whole cost. Raising the salaries to the level of public institutions will increase immensely the prices of private daycares.
If you know anything about running a business in Geneva, you know that the services are expensive because the costs are high. Many companies only make enough money to make ends meet. I have no idea if this is the case for TotUp, but when I calculated the prices in public, considering the lack of subsidies, the price of one place in TotUp may seem high, but in fact, it looks fair.
Kristina Babina assured me that her employees gain at least the minimum wage (“98% of our employees are quite above minimum wage and only 2% are at minimum wage”), and when she cannot offer them money, she does her best to add other benefits. For example, guaranteed daycare space for employee’s child with a 30-40% discount, meals and snacks during work are free, and other perks.
Because TotUp has several daycares and plans to open more, the career development options are vast; educators receive various workshops that benefit both them and the children. Geneva, nor any other municipality in the canton, do not contribute. So, how can the rules for a private company be the same as for the public?
In other cantons (VD and FR), TotUp found municipalities that are happy to collaboare. In those daycares, some places are attributed to the parents from the public daycare waitlist. Parents pay the same as they would in the public creche. The municipality pays the difference between the public price and TotUp’s price.
Not to mention that the the requirements for opening a private daycare are easier to meet in many other cantons.
This way, the municipality doesn’t have to create, build, manage, or maintain a new creche (or at least plan to make less). Collaborating with a private company that created the creche, supports it, and repairs it is cheaper than doing it alone from scratch.
There are only as many employees as TotUp needs, like in any private company. This private daycare offers childcare throughout the year, without a break in summer. Shouldn’t that be the case everywhere, by the way? The closing of daycares in summer is a nightmare for many families. Do you know anyone other than school teachers and creche educators who has so many weeks of holidays per year (7 to be exact)? There’s a big chance you only have 4-5 weeks of holidays per year. You want to use it around Christmas, to go skiing in winter, or to use some days to get stuff done. But if you have small kids, you must take it all when the creche is closed. Isn’t it crazy?
If TotUp were to give the same number of holidays to its employees, it would mean that daycare would be closed over the summer, and its employees would no longer be able to plan their days off throughout the year as they need/want.
When I learnt all that, I was genuinely confused why a political party that has people’s well-being at heart and plans to make life easier (or less strugglesome) in many areas decided to do something that will:
- close many private daycares,
- push kids from closed private daycares to public daycares,
- make the waiting time for public daycare even longer,
- push even more parents to quit their jobs.
- Make private daycares employees lose their jobs.
Can we all agree that if authorities created enough daycares, with places for everyone, there would be no need for private creches at all?
Many parents who decide to go private do so only because there is no chance they will quickly get a place in the public institution.
I didn’t waste time being confused. I reached out to the Geneva branch of the Socialist Party, asking them to explain why they want to push these changes.
This is the answer I received (translated by Chat GPT) from Sophie Demaurex, Députée au Grand Conseil genevois:
“Solicited by the PS (Socialist Party) to respond, I will proceed. Indeed, I actively supported the referendum in order to avoid cutting the wages of early childhood personnel. After years of advocacy, they could secure Collective Labor Agreements (CCT) or the application of customary practices in non-signatory daycare centres. Given the severe shortage of educators, this alignment is particularly aimed at preventing professional « job-hopping » to the new public or subsidised nonprofit daycare centres as soon as they open. Furthermore, in the social and educational field, there is no reason to burden professionals already struggling with poorly recognised working conditions. The minimum wage was established to support workers, not to diminish the achievements of early childhood personnel. Pedagogical expectations, the care of children with special needs, inclusion, socialisation, nutrition, and more are areas where training, wages, and recognition are crucial.
Municipalities should fund and support early childhood institutions. Some private daycare centres refuse subsidies because they would be required to adhere to certain standards, including prioritising residents and income-based pricing. Schools are not divided into two tiers, so why should daycare centres be?
In conclusion, funding early childhood services to make them accessible to families, YES, but not at the expense of the 95% female professionals.”
Let me know what you think. I don’t know what to think anymore.
Current state of affairs
TotUp is suing the state for meddling with the freedom of commerce. Some political parties, like the Partie Liberal, will work to go back to the previous legal solutions.
In the meantime, if you understand what is happening and why on the legal front, please – do not hesitate to help me fill in the blanks and assemble this puzzle.
I am keeping my fingers crossed tightly for all the families and all the employees!