Free early education and care must preserve jobs
The United Workers Union, the union for early education, welcomes today’s announcement of free access to early education and care for Australian families, but says more needs to be done to ensure jobs in the sector are preserved. Today’s announcement did not directly address how the Government plans to preserve the sector so it is still there when Australia is able to get back to work.
We are also concerned at the continued failure of the Federal Government to provide further guidance on health and safety for the early education sector during the coronavirus crisis. Last week the union announced a 6 point plan for hygiene and safety including mandatory temperature checks, but the continued Government silence on these issues is worrying.
Helen Gibbons, United Workers Union Early Education and Care Director says, “Yes, this announcement is welcome, but there are still many details to be provided to workers and their centres. Today Prime Minister Scott Morrison has belatedly recognised the crucial role that early childhood educators play in our communities and our economy. Across the country, educators are stepping up and supporting their community through this crisis. Without the care and education that educators provide to over one million Australian families, our economy could not function.
“Today’s announcement will be a huge relief to many families who are struggling to make ends meet, many with reduced hours and income. Those families can now be confident that they can access appropriate care and education for their young children. It is an important step towards making sure services are available for communities into the future.
“We encourage all parents who have left Centres to re-enrol their children to take advantage of the new arrangements. Centres need their families to re-enrol to access the new Government funding, to keep their doors open.”
The Prime Minister has advised that working parents providing essential services would gain access to free services first, but more clarification is needed for who would be included and excluded from this program.
During this crisis, many Centres will be relying on the Job Keeper program to pay educators’ wages and retain jobs through a period of lower enrolments.
However, not all Centres are eligible for the Job Keeper program, meaning thousands of educators may miss out.
Ms Gibbons says, “Right now Centres need to prove a significant downturn in revenue before being able to apply for Job Keeper. Many centres cannot afford to wait that long, and this money is not due to be available until May. They need support NOW.
“By the time a small Centre has lost enough revenue to be eligible for the program, it might already be too late to reverse the financial effects. This puts jobs and the community’s ability to work and support the economy at risk.
“As an essential service, early childhood centres should not have to prove a critical loss before being able to take steps to retain their workforce.
“The United Workers Union is calling for the Federal Government to make all early childhood education and care providers, as an essential service, automatically eligible for the Job Keeper program.
“We cannot afford to lose even one Centre to this pandemic. We need to take steps to make sure that centres can stay open through this crisis and beyond – to retain staff and keep the ECEC sector viable long term.
“That means making the Job Keeper program available to all providers of early education and care now.”
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