Childcare workers chained themselves to the entrance doors of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's Melbourne office on International Women's Day, March 8 to demand better pay for the mainly women who work in the industry. The protesters said the 150,000 childcare workers nationally were "woefully" underpaid compared with other educators.
The union covering childcare workers, United Voice, said it was high time the federal government stepped in and funnelled greater funding for fairer childcare wages. The union's assistant national secretary Helen Gibbons said: "A responsible government that values the future of every Australian would have already fixed this injustice.”
Figures compiled by United Voice show childcare educators with a Certificate III qualification earn $20.13 an hour or $39,776 a year, well below the average income of the wider workforce of almost $80,000.
Melbourne childcare worker Samantha Leaver, one of the women who chained herself to the doors, said she had been waiting her whole life for her job to be valued the same way as a man's. "Educators like us are still paid one third less than those educating children a few years older, for one reason: our sector is 94% female," she said.
"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 the pay gap in this year's budget."
Childcare workers have a case underway before the national industrial tribunal that the female-dominated workforce is paid less than men with similar qualifications, because of an outdated notion that childcare is viewed as women's work in the home.
If the Fair Work Commission agrees with the union's claim, the government would have to decide whether to provide funding to cover the increase.
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