The Independent Education Union is running an equal pay case, also known as an equal remuneration order, to improve the Educational Teachers Award 2010 on the basis that 95% of Early Childhood Teachers identify as female. As a highly feminised workforce, there is a disproportionate inequality between the pay and conditions of Early Childhood Teachers working under the VECTEA 2016 and the Educational Teachers Award 2010.
To prove the value of our work, the IEU selected a male comparator, male engineers and male primary teachers. They collected witness statements from professionals in these industries outlining the work they perform.
I chose to give a witness statement to support the case. This involved speaking with a lawyer from the IEU for about three hours, outlining the work that goes into curriculum development, individual learning plans, supporting children with additional needs, organisational isolation and leading and mentoring other educators.
Then, in July this year, I was compelled to give evidence at the Fair Work Commission.
Before I was cross-examined, the IEU barrister gave me some excellent advice – a to treat the opposing counsel as I would treat a disgruntled parent. I was polite, considered my words carefully, remained calm and did not rise to the antagonistic line of questioning that followed.
This was incredibly difficult, as I knew how significant a moment this was for our profession. I felt a huge amount of responsibility to not only our AEU members but also to all teachers in our sector. The bottom line is that the current award does not respect and value us as professionals.
There is hope that the equal pay case will be successful and the award for teachers will be improved.