STAFF at a Hillbank childcare centre will take part in what is expected to be the biggest early education walk-off in Australian history today.
The walk-off, organised by union United Voice, will take place at 3.20pm on International Women’s Day, with Hillbank Community Children’s Centre being one of four South Australian centres involved.
Rebecca Stiles, an early childhood educator at the centre, said the walk-off was being held on International Women’s Day because the largely female workforce has been fighting for professional wages “for quite a long time now”.
“Historically, because we’re a female-dominated industry, our industry is undervalued for the work we do, and therefore it is
underpaid,” Mrs Stiles said.
“We all have to have qualifications to work in childcare, but a male-dominated industry with the equivalent certificate – a certificate III or a diploma – are paid a lot more, say $15 more, an hour than in the childcare industry.”
Mrs Stiles said the basic award rate for childcare workers is just over $20 for a certificate III early childhood educator, increasing incrementally, “but not by much”, from there.
In comparison, a metal fitter and machinist, with a certificate III qualification, earns almost $38 per hour.
She said the walk-off wasn’t a full-blown industrial strike action as the staff have consulted with parents and their management committee about what’s happening, and received plenty of support from them in return.
“We’re looking at the government to fund early childhood educators’ wages, as they do for other educators’ wages…but we
don’t want parents to have to bear the costs of it,” Mrs Stiles said.
“A lot of us are parents ourselves, and a lot of us have children in childcare when we’re working in childcare, so it’s difficult enough as it is to have to pay childcare fees on a childcare wage.
“We really don’t want to put any more burden on parents, either.”
Mrs Stiles said she would like to see an improvement in the social perception of the value of early childhood education as well.
“I think we’re seen as baby-sitters because we’re just seen as doing a nurturing, baby-sitting role, whereas if you actually spend time in a childcare centre and see all of the regulations that we have to follow, we do actually educate the children,” she said.
“We think we deserve to be paid as educators.”