Early Childhood Lifting wages through MEAs in long day care

Early childhood teacher Leanne Mits with her preschool class. Photo: Meredith O'Shea.

The Better Pay, Secure Jobs Bill passed both houses of federal parliament on 2 December 2022. The new industrial relations laws have come into effect on 6 June, and unions representing early childhood teachers and educators have lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission to commence multi-employer bargaining with National Early Childhood long day care providers.

The AEU, IEU and UWU are seeking a 25% pay increase for teachers and educators currently employed under the modern awards to address the wage injustices this segment of the profession has experienced for far too long. 

The education unions have been informally meeting with early childhood providers, peak bodies and stakeholders for the past few months to discuss the new IR laws and what this means for the early childhood sector, which is experiencing a workforce crisis nationally. A couple of these meetings have been held at Parliament House in Canberra with the federal minister for early childhood Anne Aly, and the employment and workplace relations minister Tony Burke. All parties acknowledge that early childhood teachers and educators deserve professional wages and that a national agreement attached to funding can deliver a wage increase that is desperately needed. 

Multi-employer bargaining offers an opportunity to set a new benchmark standard for teachers who are employed in long day care services.

Over the next decade, an additional 11,000 early childhood teachers and educators are needed as part of the Victorian Best Start, Best Life reform agenda. Retention is a critical part of the workforce strategy, not only to ensure supply, but to ensure that there is a high level of experience and expertise within the profession to support and mentor the next generation of teachers across both sessional and long day care (LDC) kinder programs.

There are currently real inequities in pay and conditions between teachers in sessional kinder and LDC kinder programs. Multi-employer bargaining offers an opportunity to set a new benchmark standard for teachers who are employed in LDC services – and, via successive rounds of bargaining, we will be looking to improve these multi-employer agreements.

Relationships are a core part of quality EC education. Yet, this is compromised due to the high turnover rate of teachers in LDC because of poor pay and conditions. Children and families in long day care EC settings should be able to expect consistency in staffing, and staff who are highly skilled and qualified, well supported and resourced, so that they can provide high-quality educational programs, giving every child the opportunity to thrive now and into the future.

The AEU Victorian branch has a long, proud history of enterprise bargaining in early childhood since the first multi-employer agreement was secured in 1998, and we are going to work hard to ensure we have the same successes with a national EC multi-employer agreement.

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