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AEU announces work stoppage in Victoria

The Australian Education Union has advised preschool teachers and early childhood educators that industrial action will take place in Victoria on August 13.

Professionals will take part in a 24-hour work stoppage, called after negotiations with the Victorian Government for a wage increase for preschool teachers collapsed. Involved in the negotiations are the Victorian Department of Education and Training, the AEU, Early Learning Association of Australia (ELAA), and the Municipal Association of Victoria.

“We have bargained for a new wage deal in good faith for more than two years,” Martel Menz, deputy vice-president of AEU Victoria, said. “It’s not realistic to expect early childhood educators to wait for a proper wage increase indefinitely. Early childhood educators face increasing demands, workloads and regulations. Many early childhood educators have been doing 15 hours a week or more of unpaid overtime.”

This move comes after last year’s preschool industrial action in Melbourne, which was also over a pay dispute, causing dozens of Victorian preschools to close and more than 1000 teachers took to the streets in protest. Menz said it was unreasonable that teachers wait for two years for a decent pay rise, and that if the state government does not increase wages it will be children who miss out.

“When wages fall so far behind, we run the risk of losing qualified early childhood teachers and new graduates to other teaching roles,” Menz said. “That is not good for Victoria’s youngest learners.”

Shane Lucas, chief executive of ELAA, has announced ELAA does not support industrial action, although he shares the AEU’s frustrations that an agreement hasn’t been reached.

“Progress is being made but it has been slow going, and ELAA shares our members’ and our educators’ frustration that no additional government funding has been agreed upon,” Lucas said in a statement. “While we respect the union’s right to take industrial action in pursuit of its claims, it is not an action that ELAA supports.”

Lucas also said the disruption the move would cause to preschools is not in children’s, educators’, or families’ best interests – and asked the AEU to reconsider taking action. He has advised educators who may participate to inform parents and carers that preschool may be disrupted or closed for the day, so families have time to make alternative arrangements.

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