Historic walk-off for childcare staff over $21/hr pay

More than 3,000 childcare workers walked out of centres nationwide as part of a campaign for better pay.

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After stopping work at 3.20pm on Thursday – the time the union says they start working for free – staff took to city streets flanked by children and supporters holding balloons and brandishing signs calling for fairer wages.

“What do we want? Equal pay. When do we want it? Now!” the early childhood educators chanted at rallies in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and through wet and windy conditions in Melbourne.

If we changed the title “childcare worker” to “small human engineer” they’d make more money without any resistance #childcare #strike

— Amelia Yaron (@SlayAtHomeMum) September 7, 2017

The strike action was also supported by parents at centres in Sydney, Canberra and Darwin.

“They are qualified, they are committed, they are experienced and yet they can be paid as little as $21 an hour,” the United Voice (UV) union’s assistant national secretary Helen Gibbons said in Melbourne.

“And everybody knows why.

“Historically, it’s been seen as women’s work that they did for the love of it alone. But love does not pay the bills.”

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Melbourne early childhood educator Lucy Luzza joined the strike.

She said the current pay rate just isn’t enough. 

“I love my job, I love working with children, however saying that, love doesn’t pay my bills and I think it’s unfair that we ask our parents or families to pay extra money towards early learning.”

Parents were forced to leave their own jobs early to pick up their children as a result of the largest walk-off in the sector’s history in Australia.

But despite the inconvenience, many parents, like mother Amanda Richmond, said they support the strike. 

“Our inconvenience is incomparable to the injustice that’s going on around Australia with the wages that these workers are being paid. It’s unacceptable and we’re not going to stand for it,” said Ms Richmond. 

UV says it was the biggest walk-off by childcare workers in Australian history, affecting about 10,000 Australian families, and follows a similar protest in March that failed to influence the federal budget.

0:00 Childcare workers protest, demanding higher pay Share Childcare workers protest, demanding higher pay

Ms Gibbons said about 180 people leave the industry each week due to financial struggles.

“They are calling on the federal government to improve their pay rates, arguing $21 an hour is significantly less than men with equivalent qualifications earn in other sectors,” she said.

“They are saying squarely to the federal government that you need to fund this sector properly.

“If we don’t get an outcome today, I am pretty confident the educators are not going to give up.

“They are going to get bigger and bolder and stronger.”

RelatedChildcare by the numbers

* About 80,000 ‘long day care’ educators, 97 per cent of which are female

* About 700,000 children cared for across 6900 centres

* Qualified educators are paid as little as $21.29 per hour, or $42,218 annually

* The average wage in Australia is $40.62 per hour, or $80,555 annually

* Education unions have filed an application for a 35 per cent wage increase with the Fair Work Commission

(Source: United Voice; Australian Bureau of Statistics)