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#EqualPayDay prompts childcare walkout

Along with bombarding Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s social media accounts with a plea for higher wages, for national #EqualPayDay on September 8, more than 100 early-childhood educators also walked off the job in Victoria. The action was organised by union United Voice’s Big Steps campaigners.

“This is really just the beginning,” the Victorian secretary of United Voice, Jess Walsh, told AAP.

Affected parents were given advance notice of the strike, and some even joined educators’ protests.

“Parents are overwhelmingly supportive because they understand the work and value probably more than anyone,” Walsh said.

Although the event garnered publicity, its effectiveness may be limited. Previous protest attempts, such as that in March, when childcare workers chained themselves to the prime minister’s Melbourne office, did not prompt industry salary rises.

In fact, the government has repeatedly responded to United Voice’s ‘better pay’ campaigns by stating that salaries are a matter for the Fair Work Commission to decide. United Voice’s application to the commission late last year was unsuccessful.

Ironically, Equal Pay Day is a government initiative, instituted by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

Helen Gibbons, assistant national secretary of United Voice, argued that early-learning salaries are so low because the vast majority of its workforce is female.

And early learning professionals claim an honourable mandate for their higher wage push. They say it’s about more than extra dough, or even respect; it’s about improving children’s lives by giving them the best possible opportunities from birth.

“Educators have an enormous responsibility”, Jo-anne Schofield, national secretary of United Voice asserted. “They shape the future, one child at a time.”

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