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United Voice members have won a historic breakthrough in their Big Steps campaign to transform early childhood education and care into what it should be - high quality, respected and professionally paid.
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The Australian Government has announced the establishment of a Pay Equity Unit to investigate the lifting of wages across the Early Childhood Education and Care sector and, as a first installment to delivering professional wages, committed $300 million funding in the 2013 budget to a special Early Years Quality Fund.
Louise Tarrant, National Secretary of United Voice, the childcare union, says "This commitment is a historic first step in ensuring Australia has the professional workforce to provide quality early childhood education and care sector on which families can rely.
“Our members across Australia will welcome the acknowledgement by the Government that educators are vital for quality early childhood education and care (ECEC).
“We welcome the Government’s announcement that:
It establishes a Pay Equity Unit in Fair Work Australia tasked with finding a long term solution for professional wages for the whole sector.
It will establish a $300 million Early Years Quality Fund for professional wages in the ECEC sector which long day care centres can access for two years, from 1 July this year.
To ensure the $300m contributes to quality ECEC without extra cost to parents or providers, measures will be put in place to ensure the funded wage rise goes directly into educators’ pockets, providers will bear no additional costs and parents will bear no additional increase in fees arising from the rise.
“Educators will receive $3.00 to $5.23 an hour ($114 to $198.74 a week) depending on their classification. This funding will make a huge difference to this dedicated but notoriously underpaid workforce. Today many struggle to survive on just $18.58 an hour.
“This first installment in funding professional wages is the critical first step to retaining and attracting the best and brightest to ECEC.
“Most ECEC providers acknowledge a professionally paid workforce is critical to implementing the Government’s highly-acclaimed national quality reforms and to meeting children’s developmental needs. Currently 180 educators abandon the sector every week. Without an improvement in wages, exits will inevitably increase.
“This is a great start. Obviously longer term solutions are required to ensure the delivery of full professional wages for all in the sector which in turn delivers quality and stability for families but this package, given the difficult budget conditions, is a fantastic first step,” says Louise Tarrant.
The announcement of the new Pay Equity Unity and the funding was made at Parliament House on Tuesday by Ministers Peter Garrett (School Education, Early Childhood and Youth), Bill Shorten (Employment and Workplace Relations) and Kate Ellis (Early Childhood and Childcare).
The journalsits were also briefed by National Big Steps Convenor Tamika Hicks on the importance of the announcement to educators, parents and employers. Teacher Lauren Hampton (ACT), who took a massive pay cut to follow her passion for ECEC summed up the announcement bu saying it gave hope for the future of the sector.
Julia Davison, CEO of Goodstart Early Learning, Australia's largest provider of ECEC services and Samantha Page, CEO of Early Childhood Australia also welcomed the announcement as an important step for this critical service in our community.
WHAT EDUCATORS SAY
National Big Steps Convenors Jemma Carlisle, Emily Donnan and Tamika Hicks comment on Big Steps' historic achievement.
"I’m proud to be an early childhood educator but it isn’t easy when your power gets cut off and you have to work two or three extra jobs just to pay bills. It’s disheartening and exhausting. I’m relieved our professional skills are finally recognised with real financial support from the Government." - Emily Donnan, Director, Master Kids Childcare Centre, Matraville, Sydney
"In my 13 years as an early childhood educator, I’ve learned that quality early childhood education and care depend on a fairly paid professional workforce. This funding will help turn around the workforce crisis and will deliver enduring benefits for children without squeezing parents out of the market." - Tamika Hicks, owner, Rowville Lakes Early Learning Centre, Melbourne
"The benefits of quality early education and care are lifelong and widely spread. All children deserve a quality experience and this can only be achieved with a stable, qualified, professional workforce." - Jemma Carlisle, General Manager, Early Years @ UNSW University Services
National Big Steps Convenors meet Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Ministers Peter Garrett (School Education, Early Childhood and Youth), Bill Shorten (Employment and Workplace Relations) and Kate Ellis (Early Childhood Education and Care and Employment Participation) break the news at a Parliament House news conference
Tamika Hicks, National Big Steps Convenor
Rowan Parr with daughters Matilda (3) and Scarlett (2)
Why this decision is important - Louise Tarrant on Sky
We did it! - Tamika Hicks (Vic) and Nikki Baker (SA)
Big Steppers with Louise Tarrant after the historic announcement
United Voice NSW has more than 15,000 members employed across a variety of industries from early childhood education to cleaning, security, homecare services, baking, paint and manufacturing. The branch employs organisers to help members strengthen their workplaces and improve their communities. It represents members in courts and tribunals and lobbies decision makers on their behalf.
Members set Union policy through a democratically-elected branch council. To become a member or to find out more, please call our Member Service Centre on 1800 805 027.