Early Childhood Educators Day is devoted to giving thanks to workers who educate children under the age of five. The government has thanked them in a peculiar way. The sector is expected to lose half a billion dollars in funding, and childcare workers wages have stagnated at an abysmal $21 an hour.
More than 6,000 early childhood educators, with their union United Voice, used the occasion to walk off the job for the third time in the last 12 months. They left 300 centres across the country either partially or fully closed, escalating their campaign against the funding cut and paltry wages.
United Voice organised a rally in Sydney’s Martin Place, and protesters made sure they were heard with drums and whistles booming through the afternoon wind.
Patricia, who has worked for 26 years as an early educator told Red Flag: “The educators are leaving the sector because the pay is not enough to pay for mortgage or rent. We support parents, we are counsellors, we are doctors – we are there for them, for the families. And I don’t think it’s fair that the government’s not there for us”.
Theresa, a care worker and United Voice member who joined the protest in solidarity, said: “They’re not just babysitters – they’re highly skilled workers that need many years of qualifications that constantly need to be updated”.
Early education is a female dominated industry. An hourly wage of $21 for such a skilled workforce speaks lengths about unequal pay. This campaign reveals the potential of what workers can do if they get organised.