Australia needs a pay rise

After 30 years of teaching, nurturing and caring for our most vulnerable, impressionable and at times challenging citizens just because I love it, why should I be paid less?

The IEUA’s test case calling for fairness for early childhood teachers began on 26 July. The Union is asking the Fair Work Commission to remedy wages for early childhood teachers.

A crowd of teachers, mothers and babies, union activists from various groups, including the ACTU, Unions NSW, Australian Unions and United Services Union (USU), gathered outside the Fair Work Commission on William Street in Sydney to support the cause on the first day of the case.

Despite having the same degree as school teachers, first year preschool and long day care teachers earn on average $15,000 less per annum than primary teachers. After nine years the difference can be around $32,000 per annum.

Sharron Kirkpatrick of St Stephen’s Kindergarten Belrose said it was important for early childhood teachers be at the commission as they had been undervalued for so long.

“Our professional capacity is undervalued by families, governments, the private sector and employers. We need to be paid appropriately as we have the same degree as teachers in schools,” Kirkpatrick said.

“If I was starting my career over I would definitely go into a school rather than early childhood, which is really sad. We’re losing a lot of quality, qualified people due to this.”

Her colleague Judy Colledge said early childhood teachers were at the forefront in education, and often the first people to diagnose children with problems.

“We work just as hard as other teachers, but with longer face to face hours.

“We need to be recognised as professionals. If you look at other countries they value early childhood play based programs. We need to rethink our education.”

Jennifer Byfield, who works at Elizabeth Street Preschool in North Richmond, said she was worried for the future of the profession.

“We are an ageing group – who is going to want to work in this sector in the future when we are being treated so unfairly?” Byfield said.

‘People are automatically going to work with older children if they can get higher pay.”