What a year it has been for the early childhood sector. Deemed an essential service early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, you have largely been required to work on-site throughout Terms 2 and 3. The recognition of your commitment and professionalism during this time is thoroughly deserved.
Throughout this crisis, we have continued to negotiate with employer groups and DET to achieve new agreements for the sector. Negotiations for new agreements are always challenging, particularly in a pandemic, and when the state government has a strict public sector wages policy.
Nevertheless, we did achieve in- principle agreements with the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) and Early Learning Association of Australia (ELAA) covering improvements in educator and teacher salaries, the removal of validation and clauses addressing workload concerns. The big challenge now is to secure government funding.
I do want to congratulate early childhood members on their response to the call to arms in the Respect and Resources = Quality Education campaign. You applied pressure to state government ministers and backbenchers to support the sector by supporting its workforce. Your ability to so quickly raise issues with our political leaders is a great help in keeping the pressure on government.
We need to make sure they understand that the delivery of high quality early childhood programs is dependent on support for the existing workforce as well as attracting new entrants as three-year-old programs roll out.
The time has come to show you the respect you deserve and deliver the resources you need.
We have now been back in negotiations for some weeks, with a positive position from government on the table. Your actions in the Respect + Resources = Quality Education campaign so far have assisted in achieving that.
The pandemic has further highlighted the inequalities between teachers and educators in early childhood with your school-based counterparts. It is understandable you have felt undervalued, particularly given you have largely had to work on-site throughout the pandemic.
The ACER workload survey we commissioned makes it very clear that workload is a problem in early childhood, just as it is in other education sectors. Educators are required to do the core work of planning, preparation and assessment in your own time on weekends and in the evenings and that unpaid overtime can affect the quality of your work. Those of you who hold roles as educational leaders or nominated supervisors also report that these duties are expected to be performed with little or no dedicated time.
In negotiating these new agreements, we want to achieve fair and reasonable outcomes in our negotiations that address inequities in salaries and conditions. We also want to see the successful implementation of three- year-old kinder programs.
To achieve all of this the state government must provide the necessary funding for the VECTEAA and EEEA agreements. The time has come to show you the respect you deserve and deliver the resources you need. Nothing less is acceptable.