A big merry Christmas the Government said this week when they cancelled the pay rises of childcare workers around Australia, and then subsequently asked them to pay it back…. Just two weeks from Christmas. And just a day later they have axed a scheme that would have poured $1.1 bn into aged care wages, Aged Care Workforce Compact announced by Labor in March.
Here at Starts at Sixty we are a little shocked at this news and wonder if the Government really expects child care workers to pay it back. And frankly want to know how we’ll attract good, caring people to looking after our young and old, very important jobs, without fair pay.
Announced by the Gillard government as a way to boost wages for 300,000 workers, the Aged Care Workforce Compact was strongly backed by unions but opposed by many providers. But this scheme, which could have driven pay rises for many of our nation’s hard working carers has been quashed well and truly in parliament this week.
The compact required aged care operators to increase wages to benchmarks set in the scheme to trigger the top-up funding from the government. At the same time the government quashed the similar scheme for child care workers, some of whom had already received payments and are now being asked to “pay them back”.
The Government has asked child care workers to “do the right thing” and hand back the $62.5 million worth of funds already rolled out.
“Do the right thing”… I think they have it the wrong way round.
The previous government had decided to increase just 27 percent of childcare workers as part of the Early Years Quality Fund (EYQF) to address the low wages in the childcare industry. They awarded workers with a Certificate 3 qualification, an extra $3 dollars an hour, and those with a teaching qualification, an extra $6 an hour.
Imagine the joy these hardworking carers would have felt when they heard of these pay rises in an industry that is notoriously underpaid. Even Tony Abbott pledged before the election that, “if elected, the Coalition will honour funds contracted from the EYQF”.
But sadly no, it was not meant to be…. Imagine the feeling of absolute dismayal that this group of hardworking childcare workers would have felt this week when the Abbott Government labelled Labor’s EYQF a ‘sham’ and asked for the money back; and then moved on from their plans to support aged care also.
The reason… So it can be better spent on training. What sort of message is this giving to the childcare workers, that their own Government does not value the hard work they put in to train and skill up and thinks that money should be better spent elsewhere.
In childcare, more than 180 workers are leaving each week for better conditions and better wages, and are centres are having to look for staff overseas willing to accept the lower wages, it is incredibly concerning for the future of our children.
There are currently one million Australian kids in childcare, surely we want those caring for them to be encouraged to gain skills and paid at the right rate. Surely these child care workers should be treated much, much better. And aged care workers are destined to look after about 8% of our population in years in the future… a huge number of people.
We are keen to hear your thoughts on this issue. Should childcare worker have to pay back this money, or should the government rethink their decision on this one. And should aged care workers be paid more?