New workforce strategy for early childhood sector
NSW/ACT and QNT Branch IEU organisers are working on a National Workforce Strategy. In March 2019, ACEQUA was tasked with undertaking research and analysis of the early childhood workforce and a report of their initial work was presented to the Education Council.
The Education Council endorsed the development of a new workforce strategy, but COVID has delayed the work. A report is to go to the Federal Government in February, and then to public consultation in April 2021 with full implementation in June 2021. A number of key topics have been identified, and it will be interesting to see if the Federal Government is prepared to act on many of them.
Wages and conditions have been raised, in particular the need for early childhood teachers’ salaries to be comparable to school teachers’ salaries. However, there is no agreement on how this is to occur.
The question of teacher registration for all early childhood teachers has been raised. The IEU would be concerned if a different registration system was to be developed for the sector, given that in NSW, all early childhood teachers are required to meet the same standards as teachers in schools. We and many other participants are opposed to a separate registration system from teachers in schools.
How to overcome the retention and attraction of early childhood teachers in remote and rural locations has been extensively discussed, with a number of options canvassed, including removing HELP debt for teachers who work in remote locations, development of professional support systems through technologies such as Zoom, location allowances etc. There are further meetings scheduled for the next two weeks.
As well as the many small standalone agreements that the union is currently progressing, we are in negotiations with several employers who operate a number of services.
University of Western Sydney Early Learning operates three centres on their various campuses. The offer on the table is currently 1.5% per annum and the removal of paid lunch breaks. While our members currently receive salaries above the modern award their salaries are not the same as teachers in schools.
Integricare operates a number of services in the Sydney area. Integricare has agreed to recognise masters degrees for the purpose of incremental progressions. They have agreed to additional ‘no contact time’ to prepare Transition to School statements, and additional non-contact time for educational leaders. We are still waiting for an offer on salaries and other matters on our log of claims.
Goodstart talks ongoing
Goodstart negotiations are continuing. These negotiations are complex as they are national and numerous bargaining representatives attend. While early childhood teachers are only a small section of their national workforce, Goodstart have acknowledged the significant role early childhood teachers play in the quality of the services. For example, in NSW all teachers are able to access RDO, while other employees cannot. We hope to conclude negotiations early next year.
Changes to the Educational Services (Teachers) Award
In addition to the rates for casual teachers in long day care being calculated on the modern award rates for teachers in long day care, a further change to the modern award has ensured that casual long day care teachers who work over eight hours in any day will now be paid at overtime rate hours in excess of 7.6 hours.