Sector voices speak out ahead of Jobs and Skills Summit calling for wage rise
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Sector voices speak out ahead of Jobs and Skills Summit calling for wage rise

Sector voices speak out ahead of Jobs and Skills Summit calling for wage rise

by Freya Lucas

August 30, 2022

A number of prominent early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector advocates have spoken out ahead of the Jobs and Skills Summit, to be held later this week, calling for an increase in wages for the ECEC sector.  


With the ECEC sector facing acute workforce shortages, the Federal Minister for Early Childhood Education Anne Aly has said “anything that could get wages moving” should be discussed at the summit. 


Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) CEO Elizabeth Death agreed with Minister Aly’s perspective, telling WA Today that “all reasonable suggestions” should be considered, while also acknowledging that while collective bargaining could be effective in raising wages, it does not serve as a standalone solution to the troubles the ECEC sector is facing. 


“The problem is, without a financial contribution from the government, early learning providers can only fund wage rises by increasing the fee they charge families, and we do not want to push fees up when families are already struggling with the cost of living.”


Community Early Learning Australia (CELA) CEO Michele Carnegie agreed, saying it was “unfortunate” that the Government has been “looking the other way for a very long time”.


“There needs to be government intervention in retention and incentivising people to come into the sector,” she said, “and it needs to be done in a way that the cost doesn’t then get passed on to parents.”


A union push for multi-employer bargaining will be debated at the summit, which could deliver higher wages for ECEC professionals, however early talk about such a measure has aroused concern that the cost to services, as well as the diversity of providers in the ECEC market could mean wage increases would be difficult to implement, or may be passed on to parents at a time when a number of initiatives are in place that are designed to make ECEC more affordable. 


The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is leading the charge for a change to workplace laws, which would make it easier for multiple employers in the same sector or industry to reach a single enterprise bargaining agreement. 


Speaking on behalf of the United Workers Union (UWU), early education executive Helen Gibbons said any proposed solution needed to recognise the reach of the sector, with its “thousands of employers across the country,” all of whom she said “are doing essentially the same thing”.


“Whether that’s across the whole sector, or whether that’s regional or whether that’s some employers, we should try and find solutions together,” she added.


Working examples of collective bargaining in the ECEC sector exist, with the Community Child Care Association (CCCA) working with 70 community-run centres and the UWU to reach a single agreement offering wages 16 to 25 per cent above the award.


Being able to operate under such a model, CCCA Executive Director Julie Price explained, meant that the volunteer committees and boards of the individual services – made up of parents mostly with no industrial relations expertise – were supported, and educators ultimately got a better deal.


Despite the collective bargaining power, the existing laws meant that each individual service then had to lodge the agreement separately with the Fair Work Commission


Current data shows that 63 per cent of those working in ECEC are not covered by enterprise agreements.Greens employment spokeswoman Barbara Pocock said sectors where there were many small employers, such as ECEC, needed a different approach.


“Childcare (sic.) is a really good example of a sector where individual enterprise bargaining has been a failure, pretty much from the beginning,” she told the paper.


To read the original coverage of this story, see here. For more information about collective bargaining, see here

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button