Thursday, 7 September 2017
That the Senate—
(i) the important work early childhood educators and childcare staff around the country do in helping care for our young children,
(ii) that early childhood education and care (ECEC) is a critical component of lifelong learning,
(iii) that ECEC workers are trusted and skilled carers and educators, and
(iv) that ECEC educators and staff, earning as low as $21 per hour, are underpaid for the important job they dedicate their lives to; and
(i) the early childhood educators and workers taking part in the largest walk-off industrial action on 7 September 2017, and
(ii) a 35 per cent pay increase to ECEC educators' and workers' salaries.
The Australian government provides fee relief for families; however, it does not run childcare centres, employ staff for those centres or set their fees. The case brought by a child care union seeks pay rises of between 14 and 49 per cent for childcare workers and early childhood teachers in long day care centres and preschools, on the basis that they are not receiving equal pay for work of equal or comparable value. The decision to award wage increases is a matter for the Fair Work Commission, not the government. The government is carefully monitoring the case and has made submissions to assist the Fair Work Commission with the interpretation of the Fair Work Act's equal pay provisions.
Labor absolutely stands with early childhood professionals in this country, but we can't support this motion because of some of the inaccuracies in its drafting. Today, after an historic ballot, 95 per cent of educators have voted for a national, sector-wide walk-off in response to the Prime Minister's inaction on equal pay. Labor is steadfastly supportive of the Big Steps campaign, which calls on the government to fund professional pay for every educator. Early childhood professionals sometimes earn as little as $20 an hour, and Labor, with United Voice, will continue to fight for these professionals to achieve equal pay.
I am disappointed the Labor Party and the government are not supporting this motion. I understand that the reason the Labor Party did not want to support the motion is that they wanted the 35 per cent pay increase removed from the motion. That is the entire point of this strike today. The Greens stand firmly with educators across this country, and we'll continue to, despite who else falls to the side.