Thousands of childcare workers could be attracted back to the sector, easing pressure on families and boosting the economy, if the government backs a pay rise.
Childcare sector representatives were in Canberra on Tuesday to push the case for better pay and conditions for workers through multi–employer bargaining.
Paul Mondo, from the Australian Childcare Alliance, said a recent survey showed of 477 respondents there were 11,123 places unavailable for families to use.
“What we hope to continue to do with the government as they engage in this process with us is … provide a benefit to our educators, to our workforce, and very importantly to our families and children as quickly as we possibly can,” he said.
Mr Mondo said ideally any pay rise should start on July 1, 2024, at the latest, while at least 30,000 workers were needed over the next 12 months.
The United Workers Union’s Leane Townrow, who has been in the sector for 18 years, said the staff shortage was the worst she had ever seen.
“I have colleagues who call up families every morning to say please don’t bring your children in, we don’t have enough staff,” she said.
“I’ve got colleagues who are capping enrolments in their services because they don’t have enough employees.
“The multi-enterprise bargaining allows us to hopefully address this issue that educators are leaving the sector because they can’t afford to stay.”
The ACA is involved in the negotiations with the UWU, federal government, Community Child Care and Community Early Learning Australia, G8, the Australian Education Union and the Independent Education Union over government-funded pay rises and better working conditions.
Community Early Learning Australia CEO Michelle Carnegie said a lack of access to child care was limiting the work options for many parents and grandparents.
“What we’re seeing is … the impact flowing on to the economy,” she said.
A Labor caucus meeting was told on Tuesday the government was well engaged with the discussions, but any agreement would take some time to land.
(Australian Associated Press)