On Thursday, September 7 at 3.20pm, thousands of early childhood educators across Australia will go on strike. Here, a member of United Voice explains why.
Politicians and papers and parents regularly gasp at the cost of childcare. I know it’s pricey, I’ve been there. The years my daughters spent in care steadily ate into our savings just to cover rent.
Yet I also know that childcare fees continue to be as affordable as they are, because my colleagues and I continue to be underpaid.
Government efforts to ease the burden on families seem tokenism and cowardly, when we need real change. None of us want to see families paying more, we’re there with you every day and we know how hard it is. But Australia is lagging behind in government spending on early childhood education, and it’s time to step up.
I am an early childhood educator. I have invested 14 years into being exactly who each child and family needs. Like 16 per cent of my colleagues I have a degree. I also have a diploma and I’d go back and build on my teaching knowledge base if it were financially and professionally worth it. But it’s not, because 94 per cent of educators are female. Apparently that’s still a viable excuse for underpaying experienced and qualified workers in 2017.
The numbers are pretty ugly. An educator with a Certificate III – about 12 months of training, scrapes by on $21.29 an hour. Diploma qualified staff are only barely above the Fair Work Commission’s official measure of ‘low paid’ earning as little as $23.97 per hour (the low pay threshold sits at $22.22 per hour).
Can you think of any male-dominated field paying its qualified professionals so little? How can we justify minimising the professionalism of the primary ‘village’ for 843, 000 Australian families?
Early childhood centres have become a significant community hub for families, a place where they can get advice, support, friendship and care for their whole family. But our pay packet does not reflect the hard work we do to get qualified and meet the requirements of our careers.
We’re here because we care. We’re professionals and we’re investing ourselves in the children you love. 153,155 educators across Australia, entrusted with the daily health, wellbeing and future of our next generation of taxpayers, and we’re barely paid above minimum wage.