Fair Work Commission hearing starts for

Early Childhood Teachers

IEU team: left to right Arthur Dowdle, Michael Wright, Carol Matthews and Verena Heron

After nearly six years, the IEU claim for early childhood teachers is finally at the evidence stage before the Fair Work Commission.

Evidence from IEU witnesses started on Tuesday 11 June with the case to run for nearly four weeks. The final submissions will be heard in early August.

The Union has two key bases of our claim for higher pay rates.

The first is a claim for an Equal Remuneration Order, seeking higher rates of pay for teachers in early childhood services, because they are paid less than male employees who have similar skills, qualifications and responsibilities. We are using male engineers and male primary teachers as comparator groups with early childhood teachers, who are overwhelmingly female. The second is a claim that the Teachers Modern Award rates have been set too low and do not reflect the proper work value of any teacher, including teachers in schools.

Almost all teachers in schools receive rates of pay higher than the Modern Award rates because they are paid by enterprise agreements.

In comparison, a significant number of early childhood teachers, especially in long day care centres, are paid close to the Modern Award rates. The Modern Award rates are more than $30,000 per annum less than the prevailing enterprise agreement rates.

The IEU has called evidence from many witnesses including early childhood teachers, primary and secondary school teachers, engineers, academic experts, industry experts and remuneration experts.

We are represented by senior barristers in the proceedings.

Our claims are opposed by private profit making child care centres. No employers in schools have opposed the claim.

If we are successful, the Fair Work Commission decision will result in pay rises for teachers in early childhood services. There are also a very small number of teachers in schools who will directly benefit if the Modern Award rates are increased.

However, for all teachers an improvement in the Modern Award rates will mean that, when enterprise agreements are assessed against the Modern Award by the Fair Work Commission, the test is made against realistic rates of pay, not those which bear no relationship to fair rates of pay.

Unfortunately, because of the size and complexity of the case, the Union does not expect a decision for some months after the conclusion of the hearings in August.

However, we are hoping that in the meantime, employers will look more closely at fair rates of pay for early childhood teachers. One large private sector child care provider has already increased rates of pay for its teachers and we hope more will do so.

Carol Matthews
Assistant Secretary