IEU case gets coverage in leading newspapers
Preschool teachers demand $100,000 salaries in Fair Work Commission
SMH – Dana McCauley
University-educated preschool teachers who missed out on Labor's promised taxpayer-funded pay rises are pushing ahead with a demand for large pay increases in the Fair Work Commission, with the Independent Education Union seeking salaries of up to $101,767.
The union is demanding pay increases of up to 49 per cent for its most experienced members, arguing they should be paid the same as primary school teachers with identical university qualifications, in a case with ramifications for other low-paid, female-dominated industries.
"If we're successful it will be a very significant case legally, and it will also have a major impact on our early childhood teacher members," IEU Assistant Secretary Carol Matthews said.
The IEU says early childhood teachers working in long daycare do similar work to primary school teachers, but have historically been underpaid because more than 95 per cent are women.
The case is being watched closely by United Voice, the union representing more than 100,000 childcare workers who have missed out on Bill Shorten's promised $10 billion taxpayer-funded 20 per cent pay rises after Labor lost the federal election.
The Morrison government's new industrial relations minister Christian Porter is also watching the case closely.
Workers in "feminised" industries such as childcare, aged care and disability services, which had relied upon a Labor election win to boost their chances of winning significant pay increases, could mount similar actions if the IEU succeeds.
About 15,000 childcare workers on the Educational Services (Teachers) Award are currently paid between $50,017 and $69,208 a year, depending on their level of experience.
Mr Shorten had pledged to change the rules to make it easier for unions to win pay equity cases arguing that workers in such industries were paid less simply because they are mostly staffed by women.
The IEU case takes a two-pronged approach, supplementing its gender-based pay equity argument with an alternative "work value" claim that early childhood teachers are not adequately compensated for the work they perform.
United Voice, which represents diploma-qualified childcare workers, lost a similar pay equity case last year but may launch a fresh action mounting a "work value" argument if the IEU succeeds on this front.
Assistant National Secretary Helen Gibbons said United Voice "wants to see professional pay for all educators", and that its members had not "given up on their fight for a wage that reflects their true value".
The Australian Childcare Alliance, representing privately owned and operated early childhood care and education services, is opposing the IEU's application.
In a written submission to the Fair Work Commission, the ACA said if the union got its way, preschool teachers would have the highest award rates of pay in Australia's modern award system, with the most experienced earning salaries on par with doctors, academics and directors of nursing.
The ACA rejected the union's claim that increased regulation of the sector had increased the value of work performed, saying the skills and responsibilities were unchanged and in some cases were made easier by technology.
"In any case, there are powerful discretionary reasons to refuse the claim, including that the grant of the claim would jeopardise the viability of many services and would substantially increase childcare costs," the ACA submission said.
Gabrielle Connell, the director of a preschool in Albury, gave evidence to the commission that the work of university-qualified early childhood teachers was far more complex than understood, promoting critical reflection, pre-literacy and numeracy skills.
She said preschool teachers' responsibilities had expanded drastically in recent years to encompass safety monitoring and recording, medical risk assessments, anti-bullying programs, supporting children with special needs and those from "traumatic" backgrounds.