United Voice lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission for equal pay for Australia’s low paid early childhood educators in July 2013.
The application for an Equal Remuneration Order covers all early childhood professionals employed in Australia’s long day care centres, covering 68,000 educators providing early childhood education and care (ECEC) to approximately 610,000 children.
Michael Crosby, National President of United Voice says “This application for equal pay is about quality – making sure we have high quality, professional educators to educate and care for the next generation of young Australians.
“Professional pay will enable this important sector to retain and build the workforce required to provide the quality education and care to which every child has a right.
“Early childhood educators are amongst Australia’s lowest paid workers. The rate for Certificate III educators is just $19.07 per hour, approximately $10 an hour less than workers with comparable qualifications are paid.
“Our application is for appropriate increases which take into account educational levels and professional skills of staff. In the case of Certificate III educators it will equate to about $10 per hour.
“Educators’ work has historically been underpaid because it has been viewed as ‘women’s work’, drawing on skills that were traditionally unpaid as they were performed in the home. Today, childcare is professionalised and its quality is assessed in accordance with high standards.
“Educators deserve a professional wage for the professional work they do.
“It is not in children’s interests for this gross underpayment of educators to continue.
“The low pay rates and consequent crisis in retaining and attracting staff are the greatest threat to the ability of the sector to provide quality, affordable and sustainable education and care to children.
Time for bipartisan support on ECEC
“The first big step towards professional wages for ECEC educators was the $300m Early Years Quality Fund, which was approved by the Federal Parliament in June.
“The $300m fund will provide pay increases of about $3 per hour for 40% of educators until June 2015.
“While this is a good start, it is not enough. Educators, families and providers need a solution which provides better pay for 100% of educators without additional cost to parents who cannot afford to pay more.
“Without equal pay this exodus of staff will continue and the crisis will worsen. That’s why, as a society, we must put children first.
“United Voice calls on all political parties to support this application. The Government and the Opposition have both frequently acknowledged that educators are underpaid and both have indicated a preference for the problem to be resolved through the Fair Work Commission,” says Michael Crosby.
Lasting solution the answer, says educator
Kerrie Devir, an early childhood educator with more than 25 years’ experience, says “This Big Steps equal pay case is about finishing the job the new national quality standards started, so that we can continue to build a quality early childhood education and care sector.
“We need a lasting solution for professional wages.
“It is not good enough for us to be paid a third less than somebody with similar qualifications.
“I’ve come close to leaving the sector on many occasions but I’ve stayed because I love my work and I see, every single day, the difference I can make to an individual child’s life. This is my passion and my contribution to society.
“This case is about changing how the early childhood education and care sector is funded by Government, to make our wages structure fairer so we can keep skilled and experienced educators in the sector.
“This will give working families peace of mind that they can rely on a world class sector which meets their children’s developmental needs in the critical early years.
“The $300 million in the Early Years Quality Fund will help stem the flow of educators out of the sector in the short term.
“What we need now is a long term solution – for our sake but ultimately for the children to whom we dedicate our working lives,” says Kerrie Devir.