Childcare workers are fighting back against unequal pay, planning the biggest-ever early childhood education walk-off from work on March 27. Photo: Clovelly Childcare Centre

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BY JADE MORELLINI

Childcare workers are fighting back against unequal pay, planning the biggest-ever early childhood education walk-off from work on March 27.

On 4th February 2017, a nationwide advertisement was launched promoting equal pay for childcare workers across TV, radio and newspaper with the aim to gain support from the Australian community.
Triggering this reaction was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s failure to fund equal pay by the deadline set by educators on the 1st February.

Helen Gibbons, Assistant National Secretary, United Voice, the early childhood union says, “Educators gave Malcolm Turnbull a deadline to fix the sector’s low levels of pay, and once again he has failed to meet the deadline and let educators down. We have an educated, skilled workforce only earning around $21 an hour, that’s half the average wage – and this inequitable situation can no longer be tolerated.”

Director of Clovelly Childcare Centre, Debbie Zerbst, continued, “Childcare workers are asking for at least a 30% increase and what is being requested is that the federal government supports early childcare education. Educators are underpaid and undervalued. Our pay does not reflect our professional skills, expertise and immense responsibility. We want and demand to be recognized as trained professionals.”

Not only are the low wages affecting current workers, they fear it could be deterring new workers from taking up the profession.
“I think a large reason for unfair pay could be because the child care industry is predominantly women-based and historically women have never been given a fair deal,” Zerbst said. “We are a professional workforce. We are looking after the most valuable people in the world, our children! We need the highest quality of educators who are passionate and committed to their work. If educators continue to receive the lowest wage it will be hard to attract people to our profession.”

On average, parents are expected to pay between $100 – $200 a day for childcare and this is putting a lot of pressure on working parents.
“I send my daughter to childcare on Monday and Wednesday, and on Thursday and Friday I get my mum to look after her because I can’t afford sending her four days a week while I’m at work,” Rosanna Johnson, mother of a 3-year-old, said. “Childcare fees are just another added pressure that I need to deal with.”

Childcare workers believe that if the government provide them with the funds they are asking for, childcare fees may go down, taking some added pressures off parents.
“It’s important for the community to realise that educators don’t want to put the fees up, we don’t want to put more pressure on parents because we know how hard it is. What we are asking for is for the government to support and value our professional service. We are campaigning for wages that reflect the value of our work as Early Childhood Educators,” Zerbst said.

“I will support them,” Johnson said. “Equal pay is important and let’s face it, looking after children is difficult and without childcare workers, we wouldn’t be able to go to work in the first place so they do have a very important role in society.”