Childcare in crisis
Childcare workers in Victoria are suffering record levels of stress- related illnesses and parents cannot afford the cost of childcare, according to two state-wide surveys. "Childcare workers are carrying the burden of a lack of resources and are fed up with the community and politicians failing to recognise the skills required to look after young children", says Moreen Lyons, Australian Services Union (ASU) childcare officer who conducted the surveys. "The ASU is deeply concerned at the high levels of work-related injury reported by childcare workers", said Ms Lyons. "The level of physical, mental and emotional strain experienced by childcare workers is unacceptable." Fifty-six percent reported back injuries; 77 percent said they suffered work-related anxiety; 62 percent reported muscle strain and 85 percent said they had work-related headaches. Speaking at the launch of the surveys last week Dr Helen Sutcliffe, Occupational Physician, Victorian Workers' Health Centre at Trades Hall, confirmed that the childcare sector was a "time bomb waiting to explode". Dr Sutcliffe said such injuries are preventable and that the situation was intolerable. She said that unless something is done, a valuable part of the community will be devastated. The survey conducted in metropolitan and regional areas, found that childcare workers were prepared to take industrial action to improve their deteriorating working conditions. Eighty percent said they were prepared to go on strike and 70 percent said they would impose work bans. ACTU President Sharan Burrow told the survey launch at Coventry Street Child Care Centre, South Melbourne, that childcare was shaping up to be an election issue given the number of families trying to balance work and family lives. The Federal Government has cut childcare funding by $850 million since 1997. The occupational health problems together with the funding crisis in childcare was "absolutely shameful", said Ms Burrow. "It is an Australian story that has to be told. John Howard stands condemned on childcare and the politicians who address the resource issue will win votes at the next election." The ASU surveys also found: * 68 percent of respondents worked unpaid overtime; * 89 percent believe their pay does not adequately reflect their skill and expertise; * 100 percent said improved wages and conditions would make childcare a more attractive career option; * the number of low-income families accessing childcare has dropped seven percent since 1998; * 40 percent of centres said parents were giving up childcare places because of the cost.
* * *For further information, call Moreen Lyons, ASU childcare organiser (03) 9342 3409 mobile 0418 565 397 or Dr Helen Sutcliffe, Occupational Physician, Victorian Workers' Health Centre,(03) 9662 4820/ 0419 588 124. Note: The reports Child Care workers in local government occupational health and safety report, 2000 and Victorian Local Government Child Care Survey, December 2000 are published by the ASU, 116-124 Queensbury Street, Carlton, 3053. The ASU represents the majority of childcare workers in local government in Victoria.