Budget reveals outdated attitude to women and children

Women and children were ignored in this year's federal budget. No new initiatives were announced and it was business as usual for the early childhood education and care sector. The Coalition government overlooked an opportunity to recognise the important role women will play in the nation’s economic recovery and ensure all children receive the best start in life though quality early childhood education.

High time for universal access

In March, we saw the federal government support free childcare for all Australian children attending long day care; however, this was cancelled in July and we reverted to the previous system, despite the many families who are experiencing financial hardships as a result of the pandemic.

It was an opportunity for the government to rethink its policies for Australian children and families and ensure universal access to quality early childhood education. But the federal government did not commit to universal access funding to be paid to the states so they could fund preschools.

Federal funding (universal access money) is only guaranteed until the end of 2021. What will happen in 2022 is not clear unless a further funding agreement is negotiated. In NSW we have free preschool until the end of 2020. In all likelihood, fees will be reintroduced for 2021.

With such a level of uncertainty how can we ensure all children have access to high quality early childhood education?

The Labor Party has seen the light. In the budget reply statement, Labor proposed an overhaul: the current system of childcare subsidies is to be replaced with one that gives all Australian children access to quality early childhood education free – or at a reduced cost for most.

Labor recognises the return on investment that early childhood education provides. It is great news for working parents who need long day care for their children. Many economists likewise recognise the economic returns to Australia that universal access to quality early childhood education provides.

However, Labor is yet to commit to full universal access funding for preschools. The Gillard government introduced it to ensure all children had access to preschool in the year prior to school. It has been very successful, with participation rates increasing.

The NSW government may say it’s committed to preschool education for three year olds, but it is not fully funded. The ACT is doing a better job.

Labor recognises the return on investment that early childhood education provides.

It is time for parents and teachers in all settings to take action to support access to quality early childhood programs for all children.

Industrial update

There have been a number of changes to the Educational Services (Teachers) Award, resulting in some confusion as to how casual rates of pay are calculated for teachers in long day care centres.

This has now been clarified. Should you have question about your wages and conditions please do not hesitate to contact the union.

Goodstart negotiations

We have recommenced negotiations for a new Goodstart enterprise agreement after initial negotiations were put on hold due to the pandemic. This is a national agreement covering every state and territory with three unions involved: the IEU, the AEU and the UWU.

The current agreement reflects the various classification structures in each state prior to the modern award. Through these negotiations, Goodstart hopes to achieve a national classification structure more reflective of the modern award. However, no employee will be worse off.

The union is seeking for many current accepted practices that are better than the award are captured in the agreement. Goodstart, however, wishes for these to remain as policy only.

Some of Goodstart’s proposals have raised concerns, including inserting what it calls “flexible part time work” by which part timers may only be guaranteed a minimum number of hours but may be employed for more if required; extending the spread of hours to 7pm; and the notice period teachers are required to give to be increased to 10 term weeks. Negotiations are continuing on a weekly basis.

Verena Heron
Industrial Officer