MEDIA RELEASE Federal Government announcement has no guarantees for educators

Empty promises of an employment guarantee to educators did nothing to reassure early educators that they will be paid over the next six weeks.

This week both the Victorian Premier Dan Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the importance of an employment guarantee for workers in early childhood education.

Early educators have been on the frontline of this pandemic, ensuring essential workers can go to work and our economy continued to function.

But last month the Federal Government singled out early educators as the one sector to lose access to JobKeeper. Instead, the Government introduced a transitional payment where funding is directed to centres. This transitional payment doesn’t require any employer to pay workers a single cent of that taxpayer-funded payment.

Now that Stage 4 restrictions have been announced in Victoria, job losses and stand-downs are real concerns for hundreds of thousands of Victorian workers. Other sectors have the ability to access JobKeeper if they are stood down from their employment. But early educators have no such income security.

When the Federal Government announced this morning that there would be further support for the sector, educators were hopeful that this glaring inequality would be addressed.

Those hopes were dashed today when Dan Tehan announced further details of the Federal Government scheme, which increased funding to centres and improved provisions for parents, but made no provisions for income security for educators.

The new scheme increases allowable absences for parents and increases the amount of transitional funding directed to centres who see a downturn in enrolments.

United Workers Union Early Childhood Education and Care Director Helen Gibbons said: “Although educators welcome the improved arrangements for parents and the increased financial support for centres, there is nothing in today’s announcement that gives educators any certainty about being paid over the next six weeks.

“The Federal Government has clearly recognised the need to support this essential sector.

“But the devil is in the detail, and the current employment guarantee in the transitional funding model is not worth the paper it is written on. There is nothing in the current arrangements to prevent an employer standing down as many of their staff as they choose without pay.

“Workers in early education and care are now facing enormous uncertainty.

“What is required to fix this mess is a rock-solid wage guarantee that will give educators certainty that they will be paid. The taxpayer funding that is being directed to these services must be tied to wages to ensure that money is passed onto workers, and not kept by employers.

“It’s clear from the statement by the Minister that he has only listened to employers, and has not consulted with workers in the sector before announcing this new funding.

“Educators have no guarantee that their employers will choose to spend this extra taxpayer-funded money on their wages or employment.

“This is an appalling omission from the Federal Government and leaves tens of thousands of educators in Victoria facing an uncertain future.

“It’s great that today Dan Tehan recognised early educators as the ‘unsung heroes’ of this pandemic, but these are empty words when he will not guarantee they are paid for the next six weeks.

“United Workers Union is calling on Minister Tehan to guarantee educators’ wages by strengthening the employment guarantee provisions in the transitional funding.”

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