Further support for ALP wage announcement applauding education message
The Independent Education Union (IEU) has added its voice to the wave of support for the recent announcement by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) in relation to investing $4 billion in early childhood education and care (ECEC), describing the announcement as a “move that would support quality early education, pay increases for early childhood teachers and a move towards pay equity in a feminised industry (sic)”.
The NSW/ACT branch of the IEU said the recognition of the need to properly fund and resource services for children in the critical early development phase up to five years of age was “long overdue”, with Branch Secretary John Quessy saying “the ALP announcement recognises that early childhood is about education, not merely childcare”.
Access to quality early childhood education, led by a qualified teacher, is standard international practice and reflects academic consensus regarding best practice early childhood development, the Union said, noting that the first five years of life is the period where 90 per cent of a child’s brain development occurs, yet early childhood teachers are some of the lowest paid workers in Australia.
IEU early childhood sector spokesperson, Ms Verena Heron added that the Union would continue to seek Government support for the IEU’s ongoing equal remuneration case for early childhood teachers, due to resume at the Fair Work Commission in June.
The IEU’s sentiments were echoed by Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA) CEO David Worland, who said the commitments represent “a better deal for families and early childhood educators,” saying that the proposed reforms “go a long way to addressing a number of key reforms that ELAA; the Early Learning Everyone Benefits campaign; and other early years peak bodies have been seeking for some time.”
Mr Worland noted the proposal to adjust the Child Care Subsidy rates to provide families earning under $65K with free (or next to free) childcare and providing families earning up to $174K with better subsidies means “those families have more opportunity to engage in paid work, return to study, and manage things like out-of pocket costs for formal kindergarten programs”.
“Supporting this policy with greater Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) monitoring of service fee increases will mean the savings to parents remain ‘real’,” Mr Worland said.
The ELAA also welcomed Labor’s pledge to further review the Child Care Subsidy System to ensure vulnerable and low-income families participate in early learning and access supports like the Childcare Safety Net, with Mr Worland hoping that the introduction of such measures would “help arrest the alarming drop in the number of families accessing the Safety Net which has nearly halved”.
Speaking on the issue of a proposed increase to educator wages, Mr Worland said the proposal was “a welcome and necessary intervention in order to pay workers a wage that reflects their professional standing,” adding that Australian society “can’t sustain a 37 percent annual attrition rate of early childhood educators from the profession, especially if we are to extend universal access to three-year-old programs”.
Mr Worland said the proposed pay increase is “an essential and positive step toward ensuring we have enough qualified and motivated early childhood educators into the future. Funding it through the Commonwealth and auditing to ensure pay rises are passed on in full means the cost of the rises isn’t ultimately passed on to parents.”
He outlined that ELAA’s 2019 Federal Election Submission to the major parties contesting the coming election outlined five essential priorities incumbent on any party seeking to form the next government. Three of those priorities included reform of the Child Care Subsidy; a commitment to funding two years of preschool; and, a skilled, valued, and supported workforce.
Mr Worland said the ELAA was “thrilled” that the recent ALP announcements “go a long way to addressing these priorities”.
Joining the chorus of enthusiasm in relation to the announcements, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) said it was “delighted” by the ALP announcements, with CEO Cassandra Goldie saying “every child has a right to high-quality ECEC, and finances should not be a barrier”.
Ms Goldie said that for too long, Australia has lagged behind in its investment in the early years adding that this announcement would be a great step in lifting access to childcare for children from lower income families.
She said that ACOSS also welcomed the ALP commitment to ensure that Government funding goes directly through to the wages of workers.
“As a highly female dominated workforce, too often, care workers face a lifetime of low paid, insecure work, with the reward of little superannuation, insecure housing and risk of poverty over their lifetime. Government plays an essential role in ensuring that the wages of workers in publicly funded essential services, including early childhood care workers, are properly paid and that workers are protected from poverty.”