Six and a half thousand educators, from over 300 centres will walk off today.
It is unprecedented action and the third walk off in 12 months, with a more than 100% increase in the numbers of educators participating.
It will be a day of rolling closures. For the first time, some centres will close for the whole day. Others will close at lunchtime, or early afternoon. Some centres will close down certain rooms.
United Voice estimates over 30,000 parents will have made other arrangements and will be keeping their children at home in support of their early educators.
Mira Ghamrawi, an educator from South Australia works in a centre that will be walking off at 12:30pm. She says, “We are walking off the job to say enough is enough. Our role in shaping the minds of young children is a vital role and a long-term investment to the community. A responsible government would have fixed this already.
“We pledge to continue to fight for professional wages until we see it happen. Meanwhile our support from the families and the wider community is growing bigger than ever before.”
Helen Gibbons, Assistant National Secretary of United Voice, the early childhood union, says Government inaction is the reason behind the biggest early education walk off in Australian history. The date for the government response to educators’ demand to take action on professional pay for the sector has passed, and the government once again let educators down.
“This is an escalating crisis, driving educators to walk off for the third time in 12 months and to close centres for the whole day," she said.
"The government can’t keep putting their heads in the sand and allowing this pay crisis to escalate even further and driving centres to continue to close. The federal government funds the sector and they can fix this issue today if they have the will.
“$21 an hour, half the average wage, does not reflect the skills of this demanding, important work and the qualifications and skills required to educate our children.
"The sector has changed, everyone must have qualifications. We’ve moved beyond any need to establish that this is a professional workforce, everyone knows and agrees that early childhood education is professional, important work.
"The work is historically undervalued as ‘women’s work’, and it’s time for these outdated concepts to change. No wonder educators are angry and frustrated.
“Across the country, parents are supporting the national action by keeping under-fives at home so that their children’s educators can walk off and fight for professional pay.”
Educators are walking off with the support of parents and providers. Affected parents and carers have been informed in advance about closures.
National TV ads have been airing since the action was announced on 4 February 2018, to raise awareness about the fight for equal pay. The ads ask “why are our educators paid so little?”
Following the rallies, educators from across Australia will converge on Parliament House, Canberra on Wednesday morning to take their message to the government.