Early childhood Update

It’s time to fix a broken system

IEUA Federal Secretary Christine Cooper met with Federal Minister for Early Childhood Education Anne Aly recently to discuss the workforce crisis in the early education sector and how it could be addressed.

“We need pay equity for early childhood teachers with school teachers and we need proper funding in order to get that pay equity. For too long funding to the sector has been piecemealed and drip fed,” Cooper (pictured above, third from left) said.

“Early childhood providers squirrel away their funds because they don’t know what’s going to happen year by year. This funding uncertainty puts downward pressure on wages.

“We’ve also got a fragmented industrial relations process, with site-by-site bargaining with lots of small employers.

“The sector struggles under collective bargaining legislation that not only fragments it into single site or employer group agreements but also disempowers employees’ capacity to negotiate – it hands control to aggressive employers determined to make no real concessions.

“Governments need to consider a sector-wide industrial relations approach that provides professional rates of pay and conditions.

“Early childhood teachers’ wages should also be on parity with school teachers’ wages, and negotiated in the same way.”

ACTU Lobbying Delegation

In early August, the ACTU invited members from a range of unions to visit Parliament House and tell MPs how the broken industrial relations system impacts on their everyday lives.

IEU member Janene Rox, a preschool director from the southern suburbs, accompanied by IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Organiser Tina Smith, attended the event in Canberra and told their story to nine different parliamentarians.

Janene and Tina joined representatives from nursing, aged care, transport and others who spoke about the problems they face in bargaining for better conditions.

Shutdown: IEU supports day of action

The IEU supports the shutdown by members of the United Workers Union on 7 September. Some members have asked why the IEU is not participating.

IEU Deputy Secretary Carol Matthews says: “IEU members who wish to participate in the UWU day of action may do so. The IEU strongly supports improved wages and conditions for early childhood teachers and educators. We have constantly raised this issue in our Teachers are Teachers campaign, by lobbying government and through numerous submissions to various government inquiries and working parties.

“We pursued a long-running equal remuneration and work value case in the Fair Work Commission for improvements in the Modern Award applying to early childhood teachers nationally.

“This resulted in increases for most teachers of around 5% to 10% (the union had claimed more) with additional large increases in allowances. We are constantly negotiating enterprise agreements for members in individual preschools and long day care centres.

“Many of these union-negotiated agreements now contain pay rates for teachers close to or the same as pay rates for teachers in schools. These agreements can only be achieved with significant member support at the centre.

“The union has called strikes of members in Catholic schools. Such strikes are only possible as protected action if they are conducted according to the strict rules applying under the Fair Work Act and in support of claims for an enterprise agreement. Members are not paid for the time they stop work. Staff who are absent from work without their employer’s approval and not in accordance with these legal rules would be taking unprotected action and this could result in fines.”

IEU Early Childhood Services Vice President Gabrielle Connell explains:

“I have been the early childhood rep on the IEU Executive for close on 13 years. I have been involved in campaign after campaign as the IEU fought for better wages and conditions for early childhood teachers. I have been a witness at two wage cases where the IEU fought for better wages in the Fair Work Commission. We have won large wage increases.

“The IEU has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on these cases – far more than the membership fees from our sector. The union has represented us on every forum possible and fought for better funding for our sector.

“There are more than 8000 early childhood teachers in NSW but only 1100 are IEU members yet the IEU still fights for you all. We are stronger when we have more members.

“All early childhood teachers benefit from this whether they are members or not. Early childhood members of the IEU have free membership of the Teacher Learning Network where they can do all their accredited PD for no cost. The IEU protects early childhood teachers in NSW. We support the day of action.”

Thrive by Five Workforce Action Plan

On 2 August, IEU Organiser Kate Damo attended the media launch of Thrive by Five’s Workforce Action Plan which calls for early learning workforce action to be at the top of the agenda for addressing Australia’s jobs and skills shortage.

  • Fund an immediate pay rise for early childhood educators and teachers, comparable to the salary and conditions of school education sectors.
  • Amend the Fair Work Act to allow for effective equal pay cases and sector level bargains to better reflect the professional value of the work performed by early childhood educators and teachers.
  • Put the National Early Childhood Education and Care Workforce Strategy on the Jobs Summit agenda.
  • Establish a process for sector collaboration around longer-term early childhood education and care workforce reform to consider tertiary education of educators and teachers, developing mechanisms for better addressing First Nations and culturally diverse needs in the sector, more support for staff retention and attraction including in under-represented cohorts and prioritising early childhood education and care jobs in local skills and employment planning.

More information: thrivebyfive.org.au

Union speaks out on risk of ‘schoolification’

An article in EducationHQ on 15 July explored the reforms in early childhood education proposed by the NSW Government, warning there is a danger of preschool becoming a year of school-like learning.

Deakin University’s Professor Andrea Nolan said ‘schoolifcation’, which involves more formal teacher-directed pedagogy and greater attention on academic content, would limit opportunities for child-led discoveries and independence.

“Schoolication is the adoption of school-like practices and values that do not sit well with taking a play-based approach that encourages child-led, teacher-led and co-constructed pedagogies,” she said.

In the article, IEU Secretary Mark Northam emphasised the importance of fair pay and professional recognition for the sector:

“If you value education, then you must value the teachers who deliver it,” he said.

IEU Early Childhood Conference cancelled

It is with considerable disappointment that we have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Early Childhood Conference: Reconnect, Recharge, Restore.

Despite our best efforts, we believe the current COVID wave and early childhood teacher shortage has had an overarching impact and the number of registrations has not been sufficient to run a viable conference.

We appreciate your registration and support of this event, and you will receive a full refund if you purchased a ticket.

As part of our commitment to offering quality professional development to our early childhood members, we are investigating other options for delivering some of our planned conference content.

Please look out for IEU correspondence on PD opportunities in the coming weeks.

Sue Osborne