Acute workforce crisis

New figures from the Education Department, revealing 11 percent of early learning centres need special permission to open due to staffing shortages, highlight the acute workforce crisis in the sector.

A December 2021 search on the Seek website found the number of job vacancies in Australia for early childhood educators was 6999, and for early childhood teachers 7212.

For a workforce of about 150,000 this is an extremely high vacancy rate of 9.5 percent of the total national workforce.

Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill said these workforce shortages were affecting the quality of services and the accessibility of essential early learning for children and families.

“Omicron has ramped up existing, long-term workforce shortages, with additional pressure from furloughed staff driving room closures and now shortages in key team leadership positions,” Mr Weatherill said.

“Addressing the workforce crisis and fixing the early learning system are vital for ensuring every Australian child can have the best possible start in life, and supporting women, families and the economy.”

For more on workforce shortages see Crisis as workforce shortages bite.

IEUA NSW/ACT welcomes new organiser

The IEU welcomed a new organiser specialising in the early childhood sector to its ranks in January.

Kate Damo has extensive experience, having worked as a teacher and director for more than 30 years since she graduated from university in Canberra.

More recently she worked in support and advocacy at Community Early Learning Australia (CELA).

Kate said she spent many hours supporting teachers and directors concerned about staff shortages, vaccinations, funding and simply coping with the pandemic.

“I spent a lot of time supporting people who were just burnt out, particularly directors in community-based centres with a parent committee.”

A long-time IEU member, Kate said this time revealed more than ever how important IEU membership is for early childhood teachers and directors.

“Many of the people calling needed support around industrial issues that CELA couldn’t offer.

“When they are at the mercy of a parent committee, directors are quite vulnerable.”

Kate plans to use her position to educate non-members of the IEU about the importance of having access to protection and advice, especially for those who work in community-based centres, where they have no one else to turn to.

What’s ahead for IEU-QNT members in 2022

The last two years have thrown our normal calendar of events and key dates out the window, but we are hopeful that this year we will be able to gather, celebrate and campaign with our members to full capacity once again.

Here are some key dates to look forward to in 2022:

  • 18 March: Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence
  • 28 April: International Workers’ Memorial Day
  • 2 May: Labour Day (Qld) and May Day (NT) will be marked with marches across

Queensland and the Northern Territory. Join in on the solidarity celebrations as we remember the hard-fought-for decent and fair working conditions in Australia and recommit to fighting ongoing attacks to current working rights

  • 17 May: International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT)
  • 27 May–3 June: National Reconciliation Week – ‘Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!’
  • 8 June: School Officer Day
  • 3–10 July: NAIDOC Week
  • 10 October: World Mental Health Day
  • 28 October: World Teachers’ Day
  • 25 November: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
  • 3 December: International Day of People with Disability.

Look out for the IEU-QNT official 2022 Key Dates Poster and Important First Nations’ Key Dates Poster in the 2022 membership mailout to hang in your staff room.

Queensland C&K bargaining

Two key issues remain for members in Queensland C&K centres as collective bargaining resumes for 2022.

Those two key issues being:

  • the maintenance of comparable wage rates for early childhood education teachers compared to rates for primary and secondary teachers, and
  • the release time required to perform the role of director.
As a result of IEU member action and campaigning, comparability of wage rates with other teachers and assistants in the sector has been achieved and maintained over the years.

Continued member action and collective strength remains critical to maintaining these key provisions.

Directors needing time to undertake their roles in the face of increasing demands is also a major issue members want to see addressed in this round of bargaining.

IEU members in C&K centres will be raising this and other issues during the current employer survey being undertaken as part of bargaining.

Further member advice and action will be advised as negotiations continue.