Front-line workers fear a Bruce childcare centre will be forced to close its doors if a new lease isn't signed by the end of the month.
Calvary Hospital staff and other shift workers depend on the Bruce Ridge Early Childhood Centre as it is one of the few centres which opens from 6.30am, allowing nurses and other clinicians to start their 7am shifts.
Parents were alarmed to receive a letter from the operators of the centre, Capital Region Community Services (CRCS), which said it would cease operations if a lease was not successfully negotiated with Calvary Health Care ACT by March 31.
Parents who spoke to The Canberra Times were worried they wouldn't be able to find a place for their children at another centre at short notice and were concerned about the disruption to the education and care of their children.
"I feel like Calvary has completely disregarded their staff," one nurse said.
"Thanks for your overtime, thanks for working through the pandemic, by the way we're no longer going to have childcare onsite."
The previous operators of the centre had a longstanding peppercorn lease agreement. CRCS took over the site suddenly in April 2020 due to "unforeseen circumstances" with the previous provider.
The letter said Calvary had approached the not-for-profit organisation in October 2020 wanting to negotiate a lease agreement to the value of $250,000 per annum.
This proposal was then revised to $50,000 in the first year, increasing by $50,000 each year for five years to reach a total of $250,000 in the fifth year.
CRCS countered this with a three-year commitment, starting with $50,000 in the first year and increasing by this amount for two more years, the letter said.
"CRCS is a community not-for-profit organisation," it said.
"We are in no position to afford such a dramatic increase without increasing fees on an annual basis and ceasing our provision of education and care to vulnerable families through the three-year-old pre-school initiative of the ACT Government and Emergency Child Care Placements."
The letter said in the event the service was closed, as many educators as possible would be redeployed to other centres operated by CRCS.
CRCS declined to comment on the lease negotiation. It is understood the parties will meet on Tuesday to resume negotiations.
A spokesman for Calvary Health Care ACT said: "As confirmed by Capital Region Community Services which are the operator of the Bruce Ridge Early Childhood Centre, Calvary and CRCS reassure the community and our staff who use the centre that while negotiations continue the service operates as normal and without interruption, as they have done throughout the current negotiation process."
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