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We’re worth more than $20 an hour

We’re worth more than $20 an hour

Why are early childhood educators walking off the job today?

I coordinate a team of 35 Early Childhood Educators who hold Diploma, Certificate, Bachelor and Masters level qualifications. They are educators with specialised knowledge and skills and many of them have been working in the sector for years. 

We love our jobs.

But today, many of my colleagues will be walking off the job in childcare centres across Melbourne and Sydney.  

In the past we’ve always stopped short of 'stop work' actions, so I was amazed when all of the educators at our service immediately and actively supported this action in support of the Big Steps Equal Pay Campaign.

Walking off the job sounds extreme, so why has it come to this?

As part of Big Steps and other campaigns we’ve asked nicely, we have petitioned, we’ve lobbied politicians, we’ve attended rallies – and made some real progress. We've won a lot of public support, but the Turnbull Government has remained silent. It is not good enough.

I can list dozens of reasons why we’ve taken action, but here are just a few:

- Our Code of Ethics states that we should advocate for our profession and the provision of quality education for the children in our care. 

- The gender pay gap has barely moved in decades and women represent more than 95% of childhood educators. With our qualifications we can earn 30% more educating children just a few years older in other education sectors.

- Let’s face it, I don’t think there would be many parents out there who think early childhood educators aren’t worth more than $20 an hour.

All the educators in my workplace are involved in this stop work action because we want our work to be acknowledged and valued - by government, business and the community.

How does it feel to do take this strong action? It may seem a big step, and a bit scary.

Surprisingly my colleagues are telling me it is was not that scary at all. They chose to do this in a ‘spirit of togetherness’ as a community of early childhood professionals.

We have the support of parents, families and employers who understand the importance of what we do and its impact on their families’ wellbeing, prosperity and future.

We know the value of our profession and its importance. We have to do this. We refuse to wait any longer for equality.

We have a choice of accepting this injustice, in which educators and children in their early years are devalued, or we can stand up for our future.

We are asking the community, particularly parents, to stand with us and tell the Turnbull Government to value our work. 

- Helen Coffey is the Centre Coordinator at the Monash Community Family Co-operative