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Big Steps in Childcare

Hundreds of childcare directors, professionals, educators and community supporters around the country are joining the Big Steps in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) campaign to solve the crisis that is confronting the childcare sector. 

This crisis has arisen because dedicated childcare professionals are leaving the industry in droves for jobs with less responsibility and more pay. And who would blame them? A qualified childcare professional earns around $18 an hour to educate and care for our greatest resource.

The Big Steps in ECEC campaign is being coordinated by United Voice and aims to transform the profession into what it should be: stable, respected and well-paid. It can only be fixed by paying directors and educators what they are worth.

Just read these stories from United Voice members, educators past and present.Their stories are typical of the experiences being shared as United Voice meets in sector wide crisis summits through out the country:

“These are some of the challenges I face budgeting on such low wages. I have not bought any clothes or items for myself for a number of years. I am constantly paying off loans because I am always unable to fully cover most of my bills. I pay $70 per fortnight to Radio Rentals because when I moved in I didn’t own a fridge. Since I am unable to save very much money toward the cost of a fridge, I have no option but to rent. I have some fortnights without the money to purchase sufficient food to last me until the next pay period. I have been told by others to change my profession to one that pays better. I will not do this because I feel that I am in one of the most important professions that exist”ACT—Amy Brady, Educator

As an educator I went to monthly staff and parent committee meetings, fund raising events, and workshops to enrich my knowledge on my own time.  And I was one of the lowest paid workers in the nation. I dreamt of being an average wage earner, it does not seem too much to ask for.

I have now left the sector and work as a cleaner. I get paid much more per hour for cleaning, and there is minimal paperwork and flexible working hours. My part-time work as a masseuse also pays more per hour than an educator of young children. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Andrea Neilsen—former educator

“ I work full as an assistant director. I’m also studying full time for my Degree.  I can’t get by on the pay from my full time work, so on weekends I sell pies, pasties, chips, and drinks at the football, where ironically I earn almost a dollar an hour more than my assistant director wage. Tell me why I should have to work selling pies on the weekend to pay my mortgage.”

Jen Shegog, Assistant director

These stories form some of our stories. We all know exceptional educators who have left. Too many of us have second jobs. Too many of us rely on a subsidy from our partners. Too many of us put off the big decisions because we don’t earn enough – when to have a baby, when to buy a house, when to get a better car. Too many of us can not afford for our own children, the education and care we provide for other people’s children.

That isn’t right. We do an essential job. We bear an enormous responsibility of educating and caring for children. We work really hard and put in many hours of unpaid labour. How is it then that our professionalism isn’t acknowledged in our rates of pay?

Enough really is enough.

If you agree with us; if it is true that a wage of $18 an hour is an insult; if a Director getting paid half the salary of a small primary school Principal is an insult, then it’s time to admit that you are indeed angry. We can’t afford to continue to sit back and watch our colleagues leave a job that they love. We have to do something about it.

The time for sitting back and letting a few enthusiasts speak for us is over. The time for asking nicely is over. The time for self-sacrifice and putting on a brave face is over. It just won’t work. To fix this problem, to get us to be paid what we are worth will take one of the biggest public campaigns in Australian history. We have to create an ongoing wave of reasoned argument that wins community support for the essential role we play.

In the NT, we have just had a hugely successful Crisis Summit attended by educators and directors sharing their stories and committing to the Big Steps campaign to improve our wages. We are taking politicians to “Walk in my Shoes” to show them what we do and get them to understand the pressures we are under.

And lastly, please join with educators and directors across Australia and keep up to date with the Big Steps campaign by:

·         Checking out the BigSteps website: www.bigsteps.org.au

·         Joining our union - United Voice: www.unitedvoice.org.au

·         Finding and “liking” us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/bigstepscampaign

·         Following us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bigsteps

 

Aurthor: Alice CasimiroBranco, NT Convenor -  Big Steps in Early Childhood Education and Care

NT Big Steps National Convenor