Stepping up for equal pay

This country can have whatever quality education for children in their early years that it wants. Whatever quality they are prepared to pay for, but they cannot rely on getting the best at discount rates.

The IEU’s annual Early Childhood Conference on 8 September was a usual well attended by highly enthusiastic and engaged members.

The conference, Stepping up for Equal Pay, convened by Organiser Lisa James, was part of the IEU’s ongoing campaign to achieve better pay, conditions and recognition for the early childhood professional.

IEU Secretary John Quessy said at the conference having grandchildren had given him new insight into the role of early childhood teachers.

“No surprises to you but for me a new level of respect for what you do and how you go about it. I only had to open my eyes and accept a little guidance and advice to see these things.

“If only politicians and commentators would do the same and understand some of what you do and how you plan to set up your evidence. If only government policy and resource allocation was rooted in evidence and education decisions were made on educational merit and not cost.

“This country can have whatever quality education for children in their early years that it wants. Whatever quality they are prepared to pay for, but they cannot rely on getting the best at discount rates.”

Keynote speaker Susan Pascoe AM, co-author of Lifting Our Game with Deborah Brennan, discussed the report’s evidence, which highlights once again the importance of a well qualified well funded early childhood teaching profession for the future economic and social wellbeing of the country.

IEU Industrial Officer Michael Wright gave an update on progress of the Equal Remuneration Order case before the Fair Work Commission. The IEU is making the case that early childhood teachers are underpaid because they are mostly women.

NSW Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Kate Washington attended the conference and spoke about Labor’s position on early childhood education.

Some long serving members were also acknowledged, with 30 year IEU membership badges presented to Joy Lubawy and Lyn Connors.

Both women, graduates of Charles Sturt University, have had long and strong associations with the Union.

Lubawy, who has actually been a member for 40 years, with a short break in between, attributes the Union and Gough Whitlam for inspiring her whole career.

Whitlam provided the degree, and by joining the Union and becoming an activist, Lubawy gained the confidence to become an early childhood presenter and consultantfor 10 years.

“I was on ECS Council, we went to parliament and lobbied ministers. It showed a country girl what she could do.”

Lubawy spent most of her career at the Charles Sturt University campus preschool, which she said gave her room to “think and develop ideas”.

Connors is practice manager for 12 KU services in the Hunter area.

She joined the Union when former organiser now NGS Officer Bernard O’Connor came calling.

“I was working in a community based centre with a parent committee that changed every year and felt like I had no back up or support behind me,” Connors said.

“I joined the Union to gain industrial and legal support and it has been incredibly supportive over the years.”

Like Lubawy, Connors became a member of ECS Council and for a year in 2010 she worked one day a week at the IEU’s Newcastle office, helping with the introduction of individual enterprise bargaining agreements to services.

Despite having more than 70 years’ experience in early childhood education between them, Robyn Hurst and Sheryl Peris did not receive 30 years badges. That’s not because they haven’t been long serving and dedicated members. The pair are working in different roles at university and TAFE, mentoring, assessing and supervising students, so they are no longer able to join the IEU, but they still advocate for the Union.

Starting work in 1975 and 1980 respectively, Hurst and Peris have a wealth of experience about how much the Union can benefit teachers, and they tell their young charges so.

‘’Young employees don’t know what their rights are or that the Union can speak up for them, so we let them know””

Members enjoyed workshops covering themes such as sustainability, Reggio Emilia, inclusion and professionalism, as well as a chance to network with fellow teachers from around the state.

Sue Osborne