Early childhood educators are making equal pay an election issue, they are mobilising to show the government that equal pay and quality early learning ARE election issues.

Thousands of educators will walk off the job in two weeks’ time – on 5 September – to make a stand for equal pay and hold political rallies in every state and territory in Australia.

The government isn’t listening. They’ve ignored educators. They’ve ignored families. They’ve lost the vote of educators.

Educators are qualified professionals, doing critically important work educating and caring for our children. Yet despite qualifications and despite the importance of their work, educators are paid $22 an hour.

Helen Gibbons, Assistant National Secretary, United Voice, the early childhood union says “We have repeatedly called on this government to work with educators to address this issue. And they have repeatedly ignored us.

“Between now and election day 100,000 educators will be talking to over one million Australian parents and grandparents about how this government has failed educators and failed children.

“This is a wages crisis, driving educators to walk off for the fourth time in 18 months.

“We’re done with asking nicely. Education Minister Simon Birmingham thinks the solution to equal pay is for parents to pay more. This government is not taking responsibility for funding professional wages for early childhood educators.

“Our community knows that this is skilled, professional work. Time is up on the appalling equal pay gap facing this professional workforce. This pay inequity needs to be fixed, as a national priority.”

Shannon Lavery, early childhood educator from South Australia says, “Educators are standing together to make equal pay an election issue. In a meeting with educators last month, the Education Minister didn’t even know how much we are paid. How can the Minister that oversees our sector not know that educators are paid $22 an hour, almost half the average national wage?

“This shows us just how much there is to fight. We are educators who are educating the government about what our job involves. It is beyond frustrating that the respect, acknowledgement and recognition of what we do just isn’t there, there is no appreciation that we have studied and are professionals. Educators across Australia are committed to winning equal pay.”

Peter Dutton to be targeted by educators

Helen Gibbons says, “And today we’re telling Peter Dutton he’s on notice. He’s in our sights, educators have targeted his marginal seat, we’ll be taking our message on equal pay to the people of Dickson.

“Everyone in Australia now knows he owns for-profit centres. And everyone needs to know that he’s never shown an interest in the welfare of educators, in delivering quality early learning or in fighting for equal pay for educators.”

New turnover figures

Educators are one of the biggest groups of employees in Australia and they are doing a vital job. The wages crisis is tearing at the heart of our early education sector. Skilled educators can’t continue to work and struggle to pay the bills. Quality early learning is crucial to the development of Australian children.

Professor Karen Thorpe from the University of Queensland [speaker at today’s press conference] has compiled new figures on staff turnover in early education and care (ECEC) based on a 4 year study funded by the Australia Research Council. Workforce turnover in metro and regional areas is 33% per year (roughly double the national average turnover rate and triple that for primary school teachers). The staff turnover figure in remote areas is 45% per annum. When considering the gains that can be made in ECEC for disadvantaged and Indigenous children, the high staff turnover rate in remote areas is alarming and of national concern.

Educators must be professionally paid and respected. Close, ongoing relationships between educators and children are crucial to children’s learning outcomes. It is time for this government to show commitment to the workforce that delivers early learning outcomes and take responsibility for funding professional wages for educators.

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