The Guardian 13 April, 2005

Childcare workers
demand more funding

LHMU Child Care Union activists around Australia are calling for an extra $1 billion injection into childcare funding in the coming May Budget.

This new funding would ensure wage justice for childcare workers and avert an imminent crisis in childcare affordability.

A Full Bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission has heard final submissions on new classification structures for 18,000 childcare professionals in the ACT and Victoria.

"The wage increase is estimated to cost between $4 and $6 per day", Jo-Anne Schofield, LHMU Child Care Union Assistant National Secretary, said.

"The community supports these low-paid, mainly women, workers receiving fair and decent wages — and our union believes parents should not have to pay."

The union is calling for an urgent federal policy response on the funding of wage increases for childcare workers to avert a crisis in affordability for families and to ensure that workers are not denied improvements in pay arising from Australian Industrial Relations Commission decisions.

Ms Schofield said the union has released a funding paper because of a need for a more active policy response than the one articulated so far by the Howard government.

The LHMU proposes a new funding system to be based on the achievement of three principles:

*Parents should not have to pay more

*Only services who pay higher wages should get more funding

*Funding systems should be equitable to parents and services and based on common criteria, which are regularly scrutinised.

"We are extremely concerned about where this is heading.

"Without government assistance and intervention, parents will be forced to pay", Ms Schofield warned.

"LHMU analysis has shown that the federal government’s 30 percent rebate will not provide equitable levels of relief to families, and will impact negatively on low income families who have lower out of pocket expenses — the fact that it is deferred will cause further hardship for all families if fees go up."

The union is also aware that some unscrupulous services may see this as an opportunity to increases fees without passing on the wage increases owed.

Collecting evidence

The LHMU is collecting evidence against operators who are not paying higher wages but have put up their fees. "This is another reason why the Government should be pro-active and be ready to manage the impact of these changes", Ms Schofield said. "Our members know this is a matter of urgency.

"We will begin a lobbying campaign of key politicians to open up a discussion on our funding paper, which we will circulate to important decision makers in the next few days."

Meanwhile, young children in childcare centres across NSW are having their health put at risk because of arcane conditions for childcare workers that force them to go to work while sick.

A first year childcare worker receives a meagre five sick days — despite this being the time when they are most at risk of catching diseases from the tots themselves.

With just five allocated sick days — compared to 15 for first year teachers — childcare workers often have to return to work while still contagious or work through the whole illness, creating a vicious circle of spreadable disease.

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