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Issue #1750      September 28, 2016

Childcare educators’ action on pay

Last May 29, childcare educators dramatically upped the ante in their Big Steps campaign for equal pay by chaining themselves to Malcolm Turnbull’s Melbourne office.

Zelda D’Aprano’s actions drew enormous attention to the campaign for equal pay.

The protest was nearly 50 years after famous equal pay campaigner Zelda D’Aprano chained herself to a federal government building in Melbourne to protest against women being paid less than men.

A dozen early education workers and supporters chained themselves to the Commonwealth Offices Building in Treasury Place to highlight their demand to Malcolm Turnbull that he provide funding for equal pay.

Educators are paid about one third less than educators doing similar work in other parts of education system. This pay gap is a key plank of an Equal Pay Case currently underway in the Fair Work Commission, being run by United Voice, the early childhood union.

The Commonwealth Offices building houses the offices of the Prime Minister, Cabinet, Melbourne-based ministers and visiting ministers. Samantha Leaver, from Melbourne is one of the educators who chained herself to Turnbull’s office. Leaver has also launched an online petition to Turnbull.

“I have been waiting my whole life to have my work valued the same as a man,” say Leaver. “I was born in 1968. One year later Zelda D’Aprano took a very brave stand to protest against women being paid substantially less than men.

“That was almost half a century ago, yet educators like us are still paid one third less than those educating children just a few years older – for one reason: our sector is 94 percent female.

“We are fed up. We won’t die waiting for equal pay. We want Malcolm Turnbull to fix this now. He has the perfect opportunity to close this pay gap.”

Helen Gibbons, assistant national secretary of United Voice, the early childhood union agrees.

“We all know the time for equal pay for early educators is long overdue,” says Gibbons. “A responsible government that values the future of every Australian would have already fixed this injustice.”

Zelda D’Aprano: from 1969 to 2016

On October 21, 1969 Zelda D’Aprano, a 41 year old union official, chained herself to the Commonwealth Centre in La Trobe Street Melbourne until she was cut free by police. Her action drew enormous attention to the campaign for equal pay.

In 1969 women received 75 percent of a man’s salary for doing the same job. Five decades later and women earn on average 82 percent of a man’s pay.

D’Aprano, now aged 88, urged women to become “more militant” in seeking equal pay. “I think the time has come for women to take more action into their own hands. I think women need to campaign for wage justice as a liveable wage,” she said in an interview with The Age newspaper.

The Victorian Trades Hall Council has released an Essential Research poll which found 70 percent of respondents support fining employers who pay women less than men for the same job.

  • About 80,000 educators work in Australia’s long day care sector, educating and caring for close one million children each week. Qualified educators are paid as little as $20 an hour.
  • High quality education in the early years is critical to child development. A child’s brain develops to about 80 percent of adult size by three years of age and 90 percent by age five.
  • Educators are responsible for educating and caring for children and helping ensure they get the best possible start in life.
  • Educators plan, implement and evaluate individual programs for each child in their care so they can learn, develop and grow.
  • Educators prepare children so they are socially and emotionally ready for school. They also do a lot of work with children with special needs, including connecting these children with expert support.
  • 94 percent of the early childhood workforce is female.
  • Educators have commenced an historic Equal Pay Case in the Fair Work Commission with public hearings expected to commence later this year.

Next article – Qld “leader” in locking up children

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