The lessons we need to take from lockdowns across Australia are multiple. By the time you read this NSW and Queensland may well be in another lockdown. Or it may not be far off. Or we may be safe. Regardless, there are things we need to learn.
When Melbourne went into Stage 3 lockdown, it once again exposed that despite clearly being an essential service, there was no way the education and care system could survive without special support.
But unlike the earlier Australian-wide lockdown, early childhood teachers (and educators) were not allowed for in that special support. The first lockdown brought JobKeeper, a payment that, although made to the employer, had to be passed on in full to staff.
This rescue package was different. The Transitional Grants and the Additional Viability Supplementary Payments that services received went directly to services – the employers.
So what happened?
Good employers, like always, did their best to hang on to all their staff and to ensure their staff took the least financial hit possible.
Others did not.
Despite the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and the Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, promising the package would work for services, parents and teachers and educators, it clearly didn’t. Yes, services have had to sign a guarantee that they would continue the employment of their employees. So, what’s the issue? The employees had to be kept on, right? Yes, the agreement was clear, employees had to be kept on and employers had to offer them more than one shift over the shutdown period. In other words an early childhood teacher could be offered just two shifts in a two month period and that counts as having their employment continued!
The fact is that this government will never view teachers as important as businesses. Sam Page, the CEO of Early Childhood Australia, put it this way: “Early childhood teachers are using leave and losing income because the Federal Government cut a deal with business operators to remove JobKeeper and reinstate childcare fees.”