COVID-19 poses a threat to the viability of the ECEC sector, United Workers Union says
The United Workers Union is calling on the Government to guarantee funding for early childhood education and care (ECEC) to continue uninterrupted throughout the COVID-19 crisis to support the sector and its workers.
Many within the sector have expressed concern about the impact of COVID-19 on attendance within services, fearful that if the number of children enrolled in a service drops, there will not be sufficient income to ensure workers can be paid additional leave to cover isolations and shutdowns.
An online petition has been launched in support of the call, demanding immediate action, and saying that if the sector is not protected by extra funding during the crisis, centres could soon be forced to close their doors for good.
Educators have expressed their concerns to the union, saying “we need the Government to step up and support our sector”.
Helen Gibbons, Early Education Director for the United Workers Union, said employers and the government need to “pull out all the stops” and do everything they can to support ECEC workers.
“Educators are among those on the front line of this pandemic. They must be provided with paid leave to be able to self-isolate when necessary, for the safety of children, other educators and the community. Employers need to do everything in their power to provide safe working environments during this time,” Ms Gibbons said.
“If centres close, hundreds of thousands of families will no longer be able to go to work. Early education is the backbone of the economy. Educators provide an essential service and these services must be funded to remain viable through this pandemic and in the years to come,” she added.
Ms Gibbons was critical of the lack of action by major ECEC employers, saying “right now, no large ECEC employer has committed to providing extra leave for educators in this crisis. Many educators have no sick leave left because they are exposed to illness regularly and may have used up all their annual leave.”
As with many other professions, educators who are employed on a part time or casual basis need to take leave and self isolate during this period “risk being caught between being able to pay their bills and keeping themselves and the community safe”.
“As a community, we need these workers to stay home if they are sick – but without paid leave how can they afford to do this?” Ms Gibbons posed.
“There is a crisis looming and the Federal Government, as the funders of the sector, need to act,” she said in closing.