The Guardian 6 July, 2005

Greedy, for-profit childcare

Parents using childcare centres in Canberra and across Victoria should be very wary of fee increase rip-offs, the LHMU Child Care Union warns. Childcare union activists will work with the community to keep childcare affordable, Helen Creed, Child Care Union National President, said. "And together we can keep child care service providers honest."

LHMU Child Care Union members have won historic pay increases — after a three-year-long campaign by union activists.

"While this increase is for Victorian and ACT childcare workers the union expects similar pay increases will spread to other states with activists campaigning at centres in most states in support of major cases before various State tribunals", Ms Creed said.

These important ACT and Victorian increases commence with the first pay period after July 1. "It will take another 18 months before the final instalment on the pay increases are in the pockets of childcare workers", Ms Creed noted.

"However, some for-profit centres are already telling mums and dads that they will now have to pay $4 a day increase. The average fee increase will be $4 per day once the totality of the new wage increase is introduced in 18 months time.

"The Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) has firmly warned for-profit childcare centres that if they increase childcare fees by more than is justified by the new structure LHMU childcare union activists will be entitled to apply to accelerate the phasing-in of the pay rises at that centre.

"This is designed to protect parents from price rip-offs, as workers are being required to wait up to 18 months for the wages the IRC says they are entitled to be paid", Helen Creed said.

The union has called on Victorian and ACT parents using child care centres to contact the local union office if they believe there are unusual price movements going on at their local centre.

Meanwhile, the biggest for-profit childcare company, ABC Learning Centres, is forcing its staff to pay for their own uniforms. Childcare workers must spend at least half a week’s wage to buy the pants, jackets and tops with the ABC Learning logo on them.

ABC Learning — chief executive Eddy Groves, and board members such as former Liberal lord mayor of Brisbane Sallyanne Atkinson and former Howard government minister for children Larry Anthony — made a $40 million profit last year.

The company has also taken from staff a weekly laundry allowance of $10.

It operates with the absolute minimum carer-to-child ratio and earlier this year was exposed as cutting back on basics such as the food prepared for the children.

Groves’ drive to monopolise childcare services is aided and abetted by the Howard government with millions of dollars in subsidies and rebates. ABC Learning has increased the number of centres it owns from 327 to 660 during the past 12 months.

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