Hundreds of early childhood educators will march through central Melbourne this morning as they push to overturn one of the great bastions of gender-based pay discrimination.
The march will coincide with events across Australia today as educators kick off a grassroots campaign to speak directly to politicians and communities in key electorates, asking for support.
An historic Equal Pay Case is about to begin at the Fair Work Commission and educators will demonstrate their work is chronically undervalued because they are 90 per cent female.
Educators will prove they earn considerably less than colleagues in primary schools, despite doing similar work.
There are 80,000 educators in Australia working in long day care centres educating close to a million children, and earning as little as $20 an hour.
“Everyone agrees: education is the key to unlocking a child’s potential,” said Jess Walsh, Victorian Secretary of United Voice.
“Educators have an enormous responsibility; they are literally shaping the future, one child at a time.”
“Yet those teaching and caring for our youngest children, early childhood educators, are paid significantly less than other educators.”
“Early childhood educators are among the lowest paid professionals in Australia for one simple reason. This workforce is over 90 per cent female and their work is still seen by some as just ‘women’s work’.”
“It’s a national disgrace that after 50 years since the principle of equal pay for equal work was first enshrined by our industrial court 80,000 educators are still being paid like it’s 1969.”
“A responsible government that values the future of our children would already have fixed this injustice, funding professional pay for every educator.”
“It is time to value our future. It is time to value every child and every educator.”
“Over the next few months you’re going to see educators everywhere – we’re going to be in your communities, holding street stalls, asking for your support.
“Educators are gearing up to make equal pay the top issue of 2016. This is a historical wrong that must be righted.”
“How can I be 30 years into my profession and still be paid appallingly low wages? I am not prepared to wait any longer for equal pay,” said Kerrie Devir a 49 year-old Melbourne educator.
“Our son Jonathan has hearing and vision impairments and developmental delays. The educators modified the curriculum and environment and helped him reach his full potential. They were amazing. We believe they deserve to be paid properly for their work,” said Helen and Brad Cleary whose son was at Perry Street Childcare Centre in Fairfield until recently.
Until 1969, legislation allowed employers to pay women a minimum rate of pay that was 25 per cent less than male employees doing the same or similar work.
In 1969 the first federal pay case established the principle of equal pay for equal work.
FACTS ABOUT EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
- There are about 80,000 educators working in the long day care sector educating about a million children across Australia.
- High quality education in the early years is critical to child development. A child’s brain develops to about 80 percent of adult size by three years of age and 90 percent by age five.
- Educators are responsible for educating and caring for children and helping ensure they get best possible start in life.
- They plan, implement and evaluate individual programs for each child in their care so they can learn, develop and grow.
- Educators ensure children are socially and emotionally ready for school. They also do a lot of work with children with special needs to ensure expert support is available to them.
- More than 90 percent of the workforce is female.
- Qualified educators get about $20 an hour – that’s about half the average wage.
- Educators have already lodged application for an historic Equal Pay Case and they are waiting on the Fair Work Commission to announce when they are ready to start hearing the case.
- On 1 January 2016 the National Quality Framework will be fully implemented around the country.
- The NQF was developed as a result of a national COAG decision in December 2009 as part of its National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care.
- This is a historic step forward in the push to raise standards in Australia’s early education system. It recognises the critical role early childhood education plays in Australia’s long term prosperity and in giving every child the best possible start in life.
- The key elements, which have been progressively implement since 2012, include:
- Nationally consistent staff to child minimum ratios
- Nationally consistent staff minimum qualifications
- Nationally consistent curriculum
- Nationally consistent and publically available assessment and ratings program
- Nationally consistent licensing and operational regulations.
- In Victoria, the final round of changes to educator to child ratios will occur on 1 January 2016 when they move for children aged 3 and over from 1:15 to 1:11.