UWU makes first multi-employer bargaining submission
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > ECEC sector responds to multi-employer bargaining submission – G8, ACA, ELAA, The Parenthood comment

ECEC sector responds to multi-employer bargaining submission – G8, ACA, ELAA, The Parenthood comment

by Freya Lucas

June 06, 2023

The early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector has begun to respond to this morning’s announcement by the United Workers Union that it will make an application to the Fair Work Commission today for Multi-Employer Bargaining (MEB) in the ECEC sector.


This is the first application of its kind in Australia, only made possible through new laws which came into effect today.


“Educators can’t wait any longer. That’s why we’re here today, at the Fair Work Commission, to apply to commence bargaining with employers from across the sector on the very first day it’s legally possible,” Helen Gibbons, Early Education Director, United Workers Union said. 


“These new laws not only allow for unions and employers from across the sector to come together around the common interest of getting wages moving, but for the first time, these laws can also require the federal government, as funder, to actively participate in those negotiations.”


“Genuine tripartite negotiations between educators, employers and government is game-changing,” she added. 


Educators hope for change


Djarra Liotta-Ndiaye, Educator and United Workers Union Delegate will be present at the submission this morning. 


“Today I have to rush back to work because there’s no one to cover me during the staffing crisis, but this moment is so important to us educators that I knew I needed to be here,” she said. 


“For the first time, we have a real pathway to lasting change. As a small service, Multi-Employer Bargaining will finally give my centre a chance to be a part of bargaining for better wages and conditions. And we get to bargain directly with the government as the funder of the sector.”


“The staffing crisis is real and affects everyone. The only way to change it is to raise educators’ wages and we’re long past ready for change. These negotiations with educators, employers and the government talking directly to each other gives me real hope,” she added.


Employer support


Major ECEC employer G8 Education is one of the employers involved in the process, issuing a statement which notes “we have voluntarily decided to be involved so that we can better work with the sector – including providers, unions and workers – to deliver an outcome that recognises the value and significant work of those working on the frontline in our sector.” 


“We want to attract and retain excellent team members to support delivery of the best outcomes for the children in our care. We look forward to advocating, along with others, for government funding to support higher wages and for greater recognition of the important role our sector plays in social and economic outcomes.”


The Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) also commented on the significance of the measure, with President Paul Mondo saying ““Today marks a very important moment in the history of the early learning sector. We have an opportunity for us — as service providers, unions and government — to work together and begin the formal process to improve wages for our valued educators.”


“We do know that wage rises for our sector will require funding, and we welcome the opportunity to work with the Australian Government as a part of this bargaining process to ensure that well-needed,
positive outcomes for our educators do not leave Australian families worse off.”


Backing from parent perspective


Parent advocacy body The Parenthood also welcomed the application, saying “early childhood educators and teachers play one of the most critical and valuable roles in the education and development of children in the formative early years and yet are among the lowest paid workers in the country.” 


“Low wages, limited professional recognition and very demanding work conditions have conspired to create a mass exodus from early childhood educators that has accelerated in recent years. The workforce crisis is already creating difficulties for children, families and communities,” Executive Director Georgie Dent said 


“There is not a child, family or employer who won’t benefit from a properly paid and supported early childhood education and care workforce.


“The Parenthood agrees that tripartite negotiations between educators, employers and government can be game-changing. Early educators deserve fair and competitive salaries that reflect the value and significance of their work.


Lessons from the Victorian experience

Early Learning Australia (ELAA) also welcomed the announcement saying “an unstable early childhood workforce has huge implications for Australian children, families, the professional mobility of women, and the economy.”


“Without a fair wage we cannot retain or attract a reliable supply of early childhood educators, we can’t expand the number of services across Australia, especially in remote and regional areas, which leads to ‘childcare deserts. Without reliable access to ECEC the decision to join the workforce, particularly for women, is made twice as hard,”  Acting ELAA CEO Megan O’Connell said. 


Ms O’Connell referenced the experience of Victorian educators with multi-enterprise bargaining, noting ELAA’s position as the lead agent for the Victorian Early Childhood Teachers and Educators Agreement (VECTEA), working with unions, and Municipal Association Victoria (MAV) to negotiate pay parity for early childhood teachers with their primary school counterparts.


“An essential part to these continued pay outcomes has been the Victorian Government coming to the negotiation table and co-funding above-award salaries and beneficial employment conditions,” she explained. 


“Employers who sign up to the VECTEA receive higher funding rates to support higher salaries. As a result, early childhood teachers are more likely to seek work in VECTEA ECEC services and stay there. The knock-on effects are seen in the delivery of consistently high-quality education programs, greater accessibility to ECEC programs for children, and more options for parents to join the workforce.”


“This application by the UWU and a small group of employers is going to be a test case,” Ms O’Connell added. 


“It’s a welcome next step and we’re hopeful that the Federal Government will join the union and employers at the negotiating table and, as the current primary funder of ECEC in Australia, agree to fund a wage increase for ECEC educators so we can safeguard the future of quality  ECEC in Australia.” 

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