Where are we in the ECEC wage increase negotiations process?
The Sector > Policy > Changes > Where are we in the ECEC wage increase negotiations process? – An Update

Where are we in the ECEC wage increase negotiations process? – An Update

by Jason Roberts

November 20, 2023
ECEC wage negotiations update 2023

On 6 June 2023 a group of unions with large membership bases in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission to begin wage increase negotiations with a group of employer representatives. 


This significant development marked the first step in what is likely to be a seven step process and that may lead to a substantial boost in wages for educators across the ECEC sector. 


With nearly six months having passed since the application was lodged a number of important milestones have been reached and passed however there is still a significant portion of the process yet to unfold before any confirmation of a change in the Modern Award is passed.


This piece aims to outline what has been achieved in the last six months and what we anticipate the key hurdles are likely to be in the coming months. 


Step 1:  Application to commence enterprise bargaining lodged with FWC


Status – Completed – 06 June 2023   


This first step was completed in early June 2023 when the United Workers Union, the Australian Education Union – Victorian Branch and the Independent Education Union of Australia submitted an application to the Fair Work Commission requesting permission to begin wage increase negotiations with employer representatives from the ECEC sector.


Step 2:  FWC approves enterprise bargaining application 


Status – Completed – 28 September 2023   


Towards the end of September the Fair Work Commission formally approved the application submitted by the Unions requesting authorisation for wage negotiations to begin, having agreed that (amongst other matters) low rates of pay prevail in the ECEC sector and that both employees and employers representatives were aligned around the outcomes of the negotiations. 


Step 3 – Employees and employers representatives begin negotiations


Status – Completed – 27 October 2023   


On 27 October 2023, representatives from the employer groups (namely; the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA), Community Early Learning Australia (CELA), Community Child Care Association (CCCA) and G8 Education) sat down with those from the employee groups, represented by the Unions, to begin the wage negotiation discussions. 


Step 4 – Federal Government joins wage negotiation discussions


Status – Completed – 10 November 2023   


After several meetings between the employee and employers representatives since negotiations began the United Workers Union confirmed that the Federal Government would be attending the multi employer bargaining meeting to be held at the FWC on 10 November 2023. The attendance of Government representatives is considered a significant step as Government support with funding the wage increase is deemed crucial to the success of the negotiations. 


Step 5 – Federal Government agrees to fund, or partially fund, wage increases


Status – Not completed – Yet to be confirmed  


Discussion between the Federal Government and employee and employer representatives are still ongoing on key aspects of the negotiations. A formal commitment from the Federal Government to fund, or partially fund, any wage increase is outstanding at this juncture. 


Step 6 – Negotiating parties confirm new wage levels and application framework


Status – Not completed – Yet to be confirmed  


The amount of any base pay increase has yet to be determined and will in fact be conditional on the agreement of Government participation in the funding. The details of the framework of the agreement, including how much, the consequence adjustments to entitlements and provider commitments in return for participating in the program will be revealed after Step 5 has been reached and some time for a consensus to be reached. 


Step 7 – A formal date for implementation is published


Status – Not completed – Yet to be confirmed  


The final piece of the jigsaw is confirming the implementation date which will be contingent on both Step 5 and Step 6. Assuming these milestones are reached funding will be included in the Federal Budget with a probable implementation aligned with Modern Award increases applied in July 2024.


Overall progress along the key milestones to date has been impressive, however the next several weeks of discussions between all three major stakeholders that lead to a confirmation that Government will indeed support the increase via funding are the most crucial, and the most unpredictable. 


Announcements around Step 5 – Federal Government agrees to fund, or partially fund, wage increases – will be keenly anticipated in the ECEC community as it will set the stage to fulfilling the balance of the remaining steps. 


The timing of this is unclear at this stage but as we have seen over the course of the last six months there is real momentum behind this process which lends itself to a resolution sooner rather than later. 

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