Witnesses give evidence in early childhood equal pay case

Left to right: Lisa James, Carol Matthews, Lucy Saunders (Barrister),Ingmar Taylor (Senior Counsel), Michael Wright and Arthur Dowdle

"During June a number of compelling witnesses gave evidence to support the IEU’s equal pay claim before the Fair Work Commission.

The first claim, the Equal Remuneration Order, seeks higher rates of pay for teachers in early childhood services, because they are paid less than male employees who have similar skills, qualifications and responsibility.

Witness Kenan Toker

IEU is using engineers and primary school teachers as comparators.

The second is a claim that the Teachers Modern Award rates have been set too low and do not reflect the proper work value of any teacher, including teachers in schools.

IEU Organiser Lisa James gave extensive evidence on the depth and breath of early childhood teachers’ work, their requirements to be accredited by NESA in exactly the same way school teachers are, and the extensive pedagogical requirements of the Early Years Learning Framework which guides their work.

James also gave evidence on the shortage of early childhood teachers, and the tendency for graduates to favour jobs in school settings, because of the pay differentials.

Witness Kenan Toker (pictured above right), 27, is a software engineer with Langdale Consultants.

Toker took a day off work to attend the commission in support of early childhood teachers.

“I’ve been very happy to give evidence in this case for early childhood teachers,” he said.

I believe my own work as a software engineer is similar in terms of skill and education required and I hope for a positive outcome.

Witness Jenny Finlay

Witness Jenny Finlay (pictured right) travelled all the way from Queensland to make a statement.

Finlay is Teacher/Director at Borilla Community Kindergarten in Emerald, in rural Queensland. She is also the Early Childhood Representative for IEUA-QNT.

Finlay said she would talk about the complexities and responsibilities of her work at Borilla, which is a large kindergarten servicing 132 children with a range of needs, including low socio-economic background, English as a second language, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background and special needs. Finlay has worked at the centre for 23 years and said in that time the work has evolved.

“I would like the commission to hear the story of what an early childhood teacher actually does; how the work has changed, the complexity of it, the challenges of it and the training it takes to be an early childhood teacher.”

She said risk assessment and risk management was a big part of her responsibilities.

Finlay has been paid the same as a school teacher since 1980 but that is not true for all early childhood teachers in Queensland.

Teachers in long day care centres are paid considerably less than those in standalone community kindergartens (preschools).

“I’m fighting for them as well as my colleagues in NSW,” Finlay said.

The case will conclude in August but a decision is not expected for some months after that.

Sue Osborne