Hundreds of children across Victoria and NSW were today sent home from child care centres, as early childhood educators walked off the job demanding more pay.
It’s the first time in almost 30 years that such disruptive action has been taken, amid a call for pay parity with men and other educators. It’s the latest escalation in a long-running union campaign, which claims qualified early educators are being paid as little as $20 an hour.
Parents at the affected centres were told of the action beforehand, so they could make alternative plans for their children. Addressing the throng of workers who walked off the job in Victoria this afternoon, United Voice’s Jess Walsh said, “It’s time to value our work, and it is time for equal pay. This is an historic time.”
The union’s national secretary Jo-anne Schofield says the action is justified. “The underpayment of early childhood educators is a national disgrace. Almost half a century since the principle of equal pay for equal work was enshrined in Australia, early childhood educators are still being paid as if it is 1969.”
Melbourne educator Rukmini Bose-Rahman walked off the job at 3.20pm today, calling for recognition of the role played by those in the child care system. “We are committed to our profession, to the children we educate and their families. The work we do is just as important as our colleagues in primary and secondary education, and it’s time this is reflected in our pay.”
The union claims educators are among the lowest paid workers in Australia because the workforce is 95 per cent female. “It’s time to value the work of educators. A responsible government that values the future of our children would already have fixed this,” Ms Schofield said.
With today marking Equal Pay Day, Minister for Women and Employment, Michaelia Cash admitted there’s a ‘long way to go’ in closing the gender pay gap, but added, “It is particularly heartening that the latest labour force statistics show female employment levels are at an all-time high, with more Australian women in employment than ever before,” she explained.
Education Minister, Senator Hon Simon Birmingham previously told Babyology that the federal government doesn’t play a role in setting wages in the privately-run early childhood education and care sector.
There are currently applications before the Fair Work Commission seeking increased wages for long day care centre and preschool employees.