Members have voted in unprecedented numbers to endorse the new Early Education Employees Agreement (EEEA), with 99% voting in favour of the deal, which for the first time achieves pay parity between kindergarten and school teachers at every level over the life of the agreement, along with significant improvements in working conditions.
At the time of writing, the EEEA had been lodged with the Fair Work Commission and was expected to come into effect seven days after approval, with pay rises for members employed at the time of approval back-dated to the first full pay period on or after 1 October 2020.
Meanwhile, the ballot for the other major agreement in the sector, the Victorian Early Childhood Teachers and Educators Agreement (VECTEA), was expected to commence shortly.
These groundbreaking new agreements were achieved after almost two years of negotiations and a long-running campaign for more respect and recognition of the work of early childhood teachers and educators. Members then successfully lobbied the state government to commit to meeting the costs of the new deals.
Among the wins are teacher pay rises of 13–30% over four years; and increases of 20–27% for Educators and Activity Group Leaders. Level 1.5 educators will have immediate pay parity with range 1.5 education support staff in schools.
In other improvements, the hard barrier of teacher validation will be removed in February 2022 and replaced by a simpler process. There will be extra preparation and planning time for Educational Leaders and Nominated Supervisors to help alleviate workload pressures. Plus four days of time release for provisionally registered teachers and their mentors, and two professional development days (pro-rata) for educators.
The new agreements also contain fairer leave arrangements. Under the VECTEA, required out-of-hours work is now to be paid and organised by written agreement, with a 14-day notice period. It also provides primary caregivers leave of 16 weeks; four weeks for secondary carers, or the relevant local government entitlement under the EEEA. Importantly, both agreements contain family violence leave of 20 days per year.
Funding campaign continues
Federal AEU has launched the next phase of the Preschool Funding Now campaign, calling on the federal government to provide guaranteed permanent funding; universal access for two years of preschool for all children; and a strong and effective workforce strategy for the sector.
The Morrison government has been drip-feeding funding for four-year-old preschool on a year-by-year basis, with no provision for three-year-old programs, despite extensive research pointing out the lifelong benefits of two years of preschool.
The AEU will be urging EC members to get involved in the campaign. Activities will focus on lobbying local MPs in the lead up to the May budget, highlighting the essential work of members in the EC sector, as well as encouraging the broader community to register their support.
We will also be urging all members to participate in the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority Workforce Strategy survey in March/April.