Childcare workers strike for better pay as ministers point to wage laws for help



But Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said the “low-paid stream has clearly failed” after nurses couldn’t land pay rises in 2013 because they weren’t considered “low paid”, and he also backed the push for workers to strike pay deals across businesses.

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“Since 2009 there have been only four applications for a low-paid bargaining authorisation and only one has been granted. This shows why – if we want to get wages moving – we need to update our workplace relations legislation,” he said.

The federal government has promised to spend $5.4 billion overhauling early childhood education, including by lifting subsidies for lower-income families and having the Productivity Commission review the sector with a view to creating a universal fee subsidy of 90 per cent.

Childcare operator Goodstart, the Early Learning & Care Council of Australia and workers have said the government needs to pin increased funding to the sector to higher rates of pay.

More than 1000 childcare centres nationwide are expected to shutdown on Wednesday, affecting more than 70,000 families, as early educators demand the government give them a reason to stay in the sector and pay them what they’re worth.

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The United Workers Union director of early education Helen Gibbons called on the government to urgently mend the workforce crisis in early education and reform the sector, saying centres were turning away children due to lack of staff.

“Educators are leaving in droves, that’s a poor outcome for families,” Gibbons said, agreeing it will take more than changes to bargaining to increase wages. “The money has to come from somewhere, and we know that nobody wants to put up fees.”

As of July 1, 18 per cent of Long Day Care Centres nationally were operating with less than their required staff, According to the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority, thanks to a national shortfall of about 6000 educators.

Aly said she had already met with early educators and would continue discussions “to help us recruit, train and retain a high-quality early childhood education and care workforce.”

Opposition early childhood education spokeswoman Angie Bell said educators are “disappointed in the lack of action from this government”.

“I’ve been speaking with educators across the country for the last 100 days and while they love their job they’re concerned for the future of the sector.”

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.



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