While many childcare workers across the Victoria region walked out today, for some workers in more remote areas with a daycare center, striking was not an option.
- Some regional childcare workers say it was too difficult to go on strike today
- Some say employees couldn’t take annual leave because they couldn’t find staff to fill roles
- More than 1,000 day care centers were closed today in a push for industry reform
Crowds gathered in cities across the country as more than 1,000 daycare centers closed and thousands of educators protested over pay and working conditions.
Kelly is a childcare worker near the Victorian-South Australian border and she said while many workers would like to go on strike, the community needs her services too much.
“The regional childcare has it probably the hardest,” she said.
“Our communities will always come first, as will our children and families.
“Being so rural and remote is really difficult. You would have to shut down your entire center and that could mean that you have 15 parents who are also unable to do their job because they cannot take care of their children.
“There’s a lot of pressure when you’re in small communities because you’re holding everything together.”
“Better work at Woolworths”
Kelly said the child care staff is small and it is difficult to find someone specifically qualified for early childhood.
“There aren’t any other childcare centers around and right now there aren’t any childcare workers to fill people up or provide enough support for the folks that are on the ground,” she said.
She said the income doesn’t justify the degree required to become an early childhood educator.
“[Young people] leave something they love and are passionate about because they and their families are better off working at Woolworths or Aldi,” she said.
“The people who need us are the ones who need to speak up for us… we need parents and our communities to open their hearts and voices and speak out about what’s best for us.”
“We’re the ones looking after their kids and they’re the ones who want us to provide that quality care and education for their kids and if they start to say anything that might help us move forward.”
Lisa Lansdown, a Bendigo childcare worker, was one of 15 childcare workers from central Victoria who traveled to the city to campaign for better pay and working conditions.
“We have educators leaving in droves. What we are paid and our workload is not sustainable,” she said.
“It’s cheaper to stay at home and not work.
“We need the federal government to stand up and be accountable for this.”
“Give Us What We Are Worth”
Workers are asking the federal government to outline a plan and timeline that meets three top priorities for workers.
“Give us a reason to stay and pay us what we’re worth, value early learning as part of the education system and put children before profit,” Ms Lansdown said.
The educators also wanted early childhood education to be recognized as part of the education system.
“Our vision for the sector is for educators to be valued with professional wages and working conditions,” said Ms Lansdown.
An entry-level childcare worker is paid 47 cents above minimum wage — at an hourly rate of $21.85.
The federal government has committed to a $5 billion reform that will increase subsidies for families using childcare starting July next year.
“No incentive to stay”
Jade Sumner has been working in childcare for a year.
She said there were several times she was unable to take leave because the center was understaffed.
“Hopefully things will change or there won’t be any educators left,” Ms. Sumner said.
Regional day-care centers have recorded increasing staff turnover in recent years.
“You burn out really fast in childcare anyway, you can’t take vacation time,” Ms. Sumner said.
“There’s no real incentive to stay.”
Despite campaigning for better pay and working conditions, Ms. Sumner said she loves the job.
“I got into childcare because I’m basically a big kid… I still love it, but I can understand why a lot of people are leaving the industry. We just want to be taken seriously.”