Sacrifice our health and safety or our income? A Victorian ECT shares her dilemma

by Freya Lucas

August 11, 2020

As Victorian services enter the first full week of Stage 4 restrictions, as they impact early childhood education and care, an early childhood teacher (ECT) with Masters level qualifications and 18 years service to the sector has shared her frustrations in an open letter, outlining the dilemma many Victorian professionals are facing  asking “should we sacrifice our health and safety or our income?”

 

“I know these are hard times for everyone” the letter begins, acknowledging challenges faced across the board, and accepting the “unprecedented circumstances” in which many around the world live as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, before outlining the position for ECTs and educators across Victoria. 

 

Every day, the writer continues, “has been full of uncertainty and frustration” in relation to job security, income levels, and “ever changing” rules and policy shifts, “leaving us to feel like we are an afterthought in a political move which made sure that parents were not worried about paying for childcare but which never considered the welfare, safety, health, income, concerns and counsel of those who care for these children.”

 

With the advent of Stage 4, and the declaration of a State of Disaster by Premier Daniel Andrews, early childhood education and care (ECEC) services across the state have navigated days of what the writer terms “mixed messaging” which has culminated in confirmation that only one parent in a household must be a permitted worker in order to access care. 

“I have a Master of Teaching in Early Years and have been a professional in early childhood for over 18 years but I have never wanted to walk out of the profession until these last few days.”

“It seems to me that the government wants me to be willing to stand down with no pay if our numbers of children attending are down, or continue to work every day with high numbers of children attending. Our parents now feel as if they are doing us a favour to keep sending their children to the centre because it is the only way we can get paid, and many have expressed that this is how they want to help. Is this the outcome that the government wants?” the letter writer asks. 

 

Whilst transition payment supports have been offered to services, the writer explains that these “do not guarantee our wages during these six weeks or beyond, it only guarantees that permanent staff cannot be stood down. That doesn’t guarantee much when it does not mention hours, minimums, or part-time details.” 

 

While providers “are scrambling to survive through this without numbers” the writer fears for services where income is directed to covering “the basic expenses and bare minimum staff.”

 

During the transition payment period, employers are not permitted to terminate the employment of an employee who was engaged during the pre-transition fortnight (without reasonable justification), cannot make an employee redundant, including for business restructuring or sale taking place during the transitional period, and cannot stand down a team member without pay. 

 

Full details of the update in relation to the rules and expectations around the Employment Guarantee, which is embedded as a key condition of participation in the current national Transition Package support measures as well as the new measures announced for Victoria last week, may be accessed here.  

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