Childcare workers say they are having a tougher time of it now than they did during the COVID-19 pandemic as the sector carries out a nationwide “shutdown” today.
Centres will be closing down across Australia today as staff walk off the job, calling for better pay and more workers.
The union is not calling the action a strike but rather a “shut down” that is expected to impact hundreds of centres and 70,000 families.
Ruth Harper from East West Child Care in Melbourne said she hoped most parents would support the action.
“It is now, for us, harder than it was during COVID,” Harper told Today.
“I know a number of centres in inner city Melbourne who can’t get staff. It’s been hard in rural and remote areas for a long time, (now) it’s hit the inner city.
“If you can’t get staff in Fitzroy there is a problem.”
She said paying staff a “living wage” would help the industry attract and keep workers.
“I know that early childhood educators are voting with their feet and leaving the sector,” Harper said.
“Not only does that mean that staff numbers are down, but we’re losing that knowledge and wisdom that we have there with them, and who’s going to replace them?”
UWU director of early education Helen Gibbons said “educators have had enough”.
“After nearly a decade of inaction from the previous government, the early education sector is in crisis,” Gibbons said yesterday.
“There are thousands of staff vacancies across the country and centres are turning away children because they don’t have enough staff.”
She said shortages were “everywhere”.
The UWU wants a plan and timeline from the government to improve conditions.
“Early childhood educators perform a vital role in our society and have the respect of the parents and families they support. It’s time for the federal government to respect educators too,” Gibbons said.
“We must reform the early learning sector to respect educators, and to give future generations the start in life they deserve.
“Early childhood education must be recognised and valued for what it is: a vital part of the education sector.”
Most of the planned public action takes place at 3pm. The union says parents should contact their learning centres for specific information and urged parents to make alternative arrangements.
Strikes have been held by healthcare workers, teachers and transport staff across Australia, particularly in New South Wales, in recent months as all industries demand better pay and working conditions.