Yesterday Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the State Government would fully fund Victorian kinder services in sessional and Long Day Care centres in 2021.

This announcement extends free kindergarten delivered in 2020 to support families during the COVID-19 pandemic to 2021. It will also include funded kindergarten programs in long day care.

This means eligible three and four-year-old children attending kinder will have their education and care funded, with families saving around $2,000 in annual fees.

Quotes attributable to Helen Gibbons, United Workers Union Early Childhood Education and Care Director:

“This is a welcome announcement in ensuring access to high quality early learning in Victoria, regardless of setting. The Victorian Government is investing in secure jobs in the hard-working critical early education workforce.

“Every child deserves quality early education and care, and the best start possible in life. This is an investment in families and children, but also an investment in quality jobs for educators, in recognition of their hard work throughout the year in Victoria.

“United Workers Union welcomes this announcement and improved job security for educators in kinder across Victoria.”

Quotes attributable to Quynh Nguyen, Kindergarten Teacher in Victoria:

“The kinder program in our Centre provides critical early education and care to three and four-year-old children. The program will set the children up for success, teaches the children social skills, self-regulating, builds on their self-independence, certain aspects of life within their community and gives them the building blocks to be a success later in life.

“Educators in Victoria welcome the new funding announced today to support our families in lowering fees, to allow greater access to programs for young children, and to improve job security in our sector.”



Today Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese announced Labor’s budget reply, shining a light on low wages in the early childhood education sector.

Educators have welcomed Labor’s commitments to making early education more affordable for families, a roadmap for universal access to early education, a more stable sector and importantly, a plan to review educator wages.

United Workers Union’s Helen Gibbons said, “Labor’s budget reply recognises the crucial role of early childhood education in our communities and our economy. This is a welcome counterpoint to Scott Morrison’s Federal Budget, which disappointed millions of educators and families with no announcement or recognition for the sector.

“Throughout this pandemic, educators have worked every day to provide quality early education and care while keeping children and communities safe from infection. In response, the Federal Government have left educators out in the cold. Early educators were the first workers cut off from JobKeeper, and the Federal Budget has now doubled down on Scott Morrison’s appalling lack of respect for this female-dominated workforce.

“Labor’s announcement to improve affordability and access to early childhood education will benefit hundreds of thousands of Australian children and families.  Making early education more affordable will also go a long way to securing the long term job security of early childhood educators, whose jobs and hours were greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a move which recognises the central value of early childhood education to the Australian economy and communities, compared to the Federal Government who, once again, have turned their back on the sector.

“United Workers Union commends Labor for recognising that fixing affordability for families is only half of the problem in early childhood education, and committing to review early childhood wages.  We know the system is broken for educator wages, who remain insultingly low paid.

“Any parent who has been required to home-school their toddlers this year will tell you that early childhood educators are worth their weight in gold.  The future of early childhood education must include a plan about how we finally ensure they are paid what they deserve.”


MEDIA RELEASE Educators petition Dan Tehan for a wage guarantee on Early Childhood Educators’ Day

Today Australia celebrates frontline workers in early education on Early Childhood Educators’ Day. But this year, early childhood educators feel hung out to dry by the Federal Government during the COVID-19 crisis.

Educators were the first workers to be cut from JobKeeper, and have faced months of uncertainty and financial hardship.  Over 10,000 people signed a petition in support of Victorian educators in just a few weeks.

Dan Tehan, Federal Minister for Education has agreed to meet with United Workers Union members today to receive a petition for the Federal Government to provide a wage guarantee to workers in early childhood education and care throughout this crisis.

Centre Director Cassandra has worked in the sector for more than 15 years. She says, “We are here to tell Dan Tehan that it’s time for a real wage guarantee for early childhood educators.

“When the Government targeted our sector as the first to lose JobKeeper, it was a blow to all of us.

“Educators in Victoria have faced unnecessary uncertainty and hardship through a lack of Federal Government support. Today it’s Victoria, but it could be any of us in the future. We feel hung out to dry.

“It’s not good enough to call us heroes. We deserve a safety net like everyone else.”

United Workers Union Early Childhood Education and Care Director Helen Gibbons said, “The Federal Government has repeatedly thanked educators for their contributions with empty words.

“The government has attempted to fob off educators with a meaningless ‘employment guarantee’ but this guarantee doesn’t prevent part-timers and casuals from facing drastic cuts in hours. The vast majority of the sector is part-time or casual, and they have no safety net.

“Throughout this pandemic, educators have worked every day to provide quality early education and care while keeping children and communities safe from infection.

“Now thousands of part-time and casual educators in Victoria have had their hours reduced to next to nothing.

“We are calling on the Federal Government to establish a wage guarantee for all early childhood educators during this crisis, and for any future funding to the sector to be tied to wages, to ensure a sustainable early learning sector into the future.

“The Federal Government must provide immediate support for educators to survive this pandemic.”


MEDIA RELEASE United Workers Union welcomes launch of Early Childhood Strategy for the ACT

The United Workers Union welcomes today’s launch of the ACT Government’s “Set up for Success: An Early Childhood Strategy for the ACT”.

UWU’s Helen Gibbons said, “The launch of this strategy shows the ACT Government is valuing educators and valuing children.

“Most importantly, this strategy acknowledges the link between valuing early childhood educators and better outcomes for children. Quality early childhood education and care is a vital cornerstone for our society.

“The ACT Government’s approach is based on the overwhelming evidence that quality early childhood education and care makes a significant developmental impact on children.

“The Union welcomes the strategy’s recognition of the significant contributions of early childhood educators to children, families, communities and our society.

“By recognising the direct, positive educational and developmental impact the workforce has on children, the ACT Government can improve outcomes for children by supporting educators.”

The new ACT Government strategy outlines the ACT Government’s plan for early childhood education and care in the ACT for the next decade, and is based on four foundations for implementation:

  • A fair start for every child
  • Valuing educators, values children
  • Every child has a story
  • Working together for children

“Early childhood educators bring special knowledge and skills to their interactions with children, supporting them to deepen and extend their thinking, problem-solving skills and language as well as to build close and respectful relationships. Valuing children and investing in their learning and development requires that the government and community value and invest in educators.”

Educator Cassandra Duff has worked in early childhood education and care for more than 15 years.

“Today’s strategy launch acknowledges the work that educators like me do every day.

“Early childhood educators deserve respect, professional pay and recognition. This strategy is an important step for making these things a reality for ACT educators.

“For educators, this strategy will mean more Government support for training and professional development, and improvements to professional recognition.”


MEDIA RELEASE Federal Government announcement has no guarantees for educators

Empty promises of an employment guarantee to educators did nothing to reassure early educators that they will be paid over the next six weeks.

This week both the Victorian Premier Dan Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the importance of an employment guarantee for workers in early childhood education.

Early educators have been on the frontline of this pandemic, ensuring essential workers can go to work and our economy continued to function.

But last month the Federal Government singled out early educators as the one sector to lose access to JobKeeper. Instead, the Government introduced a transitional payment where funding is directed to centres. This transitional payment doesn’t require any employer to pay workers a single cent of that taxpayer-funded payment.

Now that Stage 4 restrictions have been announced in Victoria, job losses and stand-downs are real concerns for hundreds of thousands of Victorian workers. Other sectors have the ability to access JobKeeper if they are stood down from their employment. But early educators have no such income security.

When the Federal Government announced this morning that there would be further support for the sector, educators were hopeful that this glaring inequality would be addressed.

Those hopes were dashed today when Dan Tehan announced further details of the Federal Government scheme, which increased funding to centres and improved provisions for parents, but made no provisions for income security for educators.

The new scheme increases allowable absences for parents and increases the amount of transitional funding directed to centres who see a downturn in enrolments.

United Workers Union Early Childhood Education and Care Director Helen Gibbons said: “Although educators welcome the improved arrangements for parents and the increased financial support for centres, there is nothing in today’s announcement that gives educators any certainty about being paid over the next six weeks.

“The Federal Government has clearly recognised the need to support this essential sector.

“But the devil is in the detail, and the current employment guarantee in the transitional funding model is not worth the paper it is written on. There is nothing in the current arrangements to prevent an employer standing down as many of their staff as they choose without pay.

“Workers in early education and care are now facing enormous uncertainty.

“What is required to fix this mess is a rock-solid wage guarantee that will give educators certainty that they will be paid. The taxpayer funding that is being directed to these services must be tied to wages to ensure that money is passed onto workers, and not kept by employers.

“It’s clear from the statement by the Minister that he has only listened to employers, and has not consulted with workers in the sector before announcing this new funding.

“Educators have no guarantee that their employers will choose to spend this extra taxpayer-funded money on their wages or employment.

“This is an appalling omission from the Federal Government and leaves tens of thousands of educators in Victoria facing an uncertain future.

“It’s great that today Dan Tehan recognised early educators as the ‘unsung heroes’ of this pandemic, but these are empty words when he will not guarantee they are paid for the next six weeks.

“United Workers Union is calling on Minister Tehan to guarantee educators’ wages by strengthening the employment guarantee provisions in the transitional funding.”


MEDIA RELEASE Early Educators petition Government for JobKeeper during lockdown in Victoria

Thousands of educators across the country are calling on the Federal and State Government to reinstate JobKeeper for Early Childhood Educators in Victoria for the length of the Stage 4 restrictions.

Yesterday Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that as of Thursday, early childhood services in Melbourne will close, except for children of essential workers and vulnerable children.

Workers in early childhood education have already lost access to JobKeeper, meaning tens of thousands of educators working in federally-funded long day care services across Melbourne are facing today’s announcement with no guarantee of income for at least the next 6 weeks.

United Workers Union is calling on the State and Federal Government to extend JobKeeper to early educators in Victoria, with a petition launched only last night gathering more than 5,000 signatures and counting.

UWU’ Early Childhood Education and Care Director Helen Gibbons said: “The Government did not listen to the sector when they cut off early education from the JobKeeper scheme. That appalling decision now leaves tens of thousands of Melbourne educators at risk of being stood down without pay.
“JobKeeper was not implemented well in early education but it is the easiest solution to this crisis.

“If the Government just increases the current transitional payment in early education, this money could go straight to shareholders, with no guarantee of wages for workers. The Government must listen to educators now.

“Extending JobKeeper to educators is the only way to provide them with the same safety net as other sectors and guarantee that Victorian early education weathers this next lockdown.”

Karen has been an early childhood educator for more than 15 years, and currently works in a centre in Melton.

“We can’t afford to be without wages. Most of us have used all our entitlements in the last lockdown, and we have nothing left. How are we going to feed our children or pay our bills?

“How are we even going to survive?”

One Early Education Centre Director in western Melbourne said: “We are all feeling overwhelmed and worried about our sector. How are we going to come out the other side of this without Government support?”

Shelley Duggan has worked as an early childhood educator in Victoria for more than 18 years.

“Educators like me have already lost the support of JobKeeper. Now we are now faced with no guarantee of our income for at least the next 6 weeks.

“This crisis has been an incredibly exhausting and anxious time for everyone working in early education. Tens of thousands of educators across Melbourne have been on the front lines of this pandemic. We have kept going to work every day despite the risk to ourselves and our loved ones. Instead of thanking us for our contribution, the Federal Government kicked us off Job Keeper before anyone else.

“That’s why we are calling on the State and Federal Governments to immediately guarantee educators’ wages. We deserve the same safety net as other Melbourne workers.”


MEDIA RELEASE Melbourne Educators could be abandoned without pay

Today Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that as of Thursday, early childhood services in Melbourne will close, except for children of essential workers and vulnerable children.

Workers in early childhood education have already lost access to JobKeeper, meaning tens of thousands of educators working in federally-funded long day care services across Melbourne are facing today’s announcement with no guarantee of income for at least the next 6 weeks.

Early education was the first sector the Morrison Government kicked off JobKeeper. The current 25% transition payment to centres is not enough to cover the loss of income in a Stage 4 lockdown. This leaves tens of thousands of Melbourne educators at risk of being stood down without pay.

United Workers Union is calling on the State and Federal Governments to immediately guarantee early childhood educators’ wages. These essential workers must be provided the same safety net offered to workers in other parts of the economy.

United Workers Union Early Childhood Education and Care Director Helen Gibbons said: “This is a completely unacceptable position to leave early childhood educators in: with no idea if they will be able to provide for themselves and their families next week.

“Throughout this period of uncertainty, educators have kept coming to work every day to provide support for children and families. They’ve done this at great personal risk to themselves and their own loved ones. Instead of recognising and valuing their contribution, last month the Federal Government singled out early education as the only sector to lose the wage support of JobKeeper.

“The sweeping changes announced today in Victoria have exposed the true foolhardiness of cutting JobKeeper for early education. This appalling experiment has put the livelihoods of tens of thousands of dedicated educators at risk.

“Educators have been doing the right thing by children, families and the community throughout this crisis.

“It’s time for the Government to do the right thing by educators. When Melbourne is ready to go back to work, we need early educators ready to support families and the education of the youngest members of our community.

“The Federal and Victorian State Governments must immediately guarantee that educators will not lose wages during the Stage 4 lockdown.”


MEDIA RELEASE Early childhood educators have been betrayed by the sudden withdrawal of JobKeeper and the insecurity that brings.

Thousands of educator jobs are at risk, especially for the casual workforce which makes up 25% of the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector.

Education Minister Dan Tehan’s announcement has only created more confusion for the sector, doing nothing to fix the ongoing funding problems and need for reform. His plan leaves the workforce subject to another spiral of instability once fees are reintroduced.

Helen Gibbons, director of early education for United Workers Union says, “Educators and their union are appalled that ECEC is the first sector to have JobKeeper removed. Just a few months ago educators were essential, now they are disposable.

“This is chaotic. This is confusing. The Federal Government is making up policy for a crucial sector on the run.

“The future for this feminised workforce is at risk. The Federal Government response puts thousands of educator jobs on the line.

“Demand will drop again once parent fees are reintroduced in a few weeks, beginning another spiral of instability.

“The COVID crisis exposed what we already know – that early education is an essential service with essential workers. In March we saw an unprecedented response of direct funding and wage subsidies by the Federal Government to avoid the collapse of the early learning sector.

“Educators were required to continue operating throughout COVID-19, at significant personal risk. Now the government has singled them out for a chaotic experiment.

“We are truly appalled at the Education Minister admitting that educators may earn “a tiny bit less”. This is yet another demonstration of how little Minister Tehan understands the issues facing educators. Many workers in ECEC already live pay cheque to pay cheque. Any further reduction in income is too much. Many educators will feel betrayed by this sudden withdrawal of JobKeeper and the insecurity that brings.

“The only way to fix the sector properly is to start listening to educators. Educators are fighting for a sector that ensures every child can access the early education and care they need and that every educator is properly valued for their work.

“ECEC is essential for economic recovery as Australia gets back to work and this will mean there will not be the qualified educators available to deliver it.

“Educators deserve better. Without genuine targeted support for the workforce we’re heading for a whole new crisis.”


MEDIA RELEASE   A national survey* of early childhood educators has revealed widespread increased safety risks and dropping standards of care and education as the number of children attending long day care rapidly goes up.

More than two-thirds of respondents say that they and the centre’s families are more at risk of Covid-19 as a result of increasing attendance. Half reported having to compromise the quality of education and care daily or regularly during the pandemic.

Educators need to be able to return to their primary duty of providing education and care programs. However, with the increasing attendance rates, they cannot also continue to carry out enhanced cleaning. During the period of low attendance, many of the health and hygiene practices were supported by educators deployed from other duties.

United Workers Union, the early education union, says that a Federal Government support package is needed to support necessary hygiene and cleaning practices. Financial support is the only way to ensure these practices continue to keep children, families and educators safe, while not impeding on the provision of education and care programs.

The main survey findings on health and hygiene:

  • 69% of educators report that they believe that the health risk to themselves and the centre’s families and children is increasing as more children attend their service.
  • 8 in 10 educators believe additional staff are needed at their centre to maintain adequate health and hygiene practices.
  • 21% of educators feel unsafe at their centre.
  • 69% of centres do not have a health and safety representative.

The main survey findings on quality of education:

  • 72% of all respondents reported having to compromise the quality of education and care regularly with 53% reporting a daily impact on quality during the pandemic due to a lack of staff.

IMPACTS ON QUALITY – Educators reported in the survey:

– Frequent roster changes and room arrangements making consistency of care difficult.

– Workers are on restricted hours and a lot of staff are calling in sick, with more work to do and more pressure to get things done ability to provide care for children compromised.

– A lot of the time it’s just about supervising the children as there’s too many for the staff present.

– Staffing was not consistent which I feel has a huge impact on the children’s learning.

– A lot of the extra things we did (that gave us an exceeding in all areas rating) are being dropped & morale is dropping.

HYGIENE IMPACTS ON JOBS – Educators reported in the survey:

– We have been able to maintain quality with increased hygiene practices due to reduced number of children. Now numbers are increasing it is becoming very difficult for staff and hard to maintain quality.

– Our cleaner was the first to be stood down. Staff have been doing cleaning within opening hours. This has become increasingly difficult, especially this week since schools opened. Our centre has barely been cleaned all week.

– It seems all we are doing is cleaning, and not spending quality time with the children as we don’t have cleaners.

– Educators are responsible for all centre cleaning.

– I have to complete all cleaning in addition to regular responsibilities.

– Running out of gloves, paper towel and just told to deal with it and not use any.

– Recently lack of staff has meant cleaning has dropped right back to the standards it was before Covid-19.

– Unreasonable expectations of staff to perform extra cleaning on top of an already overloaded workload.

Helen Gibbons, United Workers Union director of early learning says, “The Covid-19 pandemic saw thousands of families withdraw children from early learning settings out of concerns for the health and safety of their children, driving the sector to near collapse.

“During this period of low attendance many of the health and hygiene practices were supported by educators deployed from other duties. Educators implementing strong health and hygiene practices in early learning services was crucial to providing parents the confidence to return. Their work has kept children and families safe.

“As children return in higher numbers, educators can no longer be redeployed to these tasks. They need to be able to focus on the care and education of the children. Financial support is needed to ensure enhanced cleaning practices continue to keep children, families and educators safe.

“The survey results show these are concerning issues to be dealt with urgently, the Government cannot delay. Funding must be delivered for services to resource cleaning and to maintain daily and regular cleaning regimes.

“The survey also reveals the deep toll the past few months have taken on the sector and its ability to provide quality learning during the pandemic. Our educators are desperate to return to the pre-Covid standards of early learning as attendance increases. This can only happen if centres have the resources to clean and deliver high quality early learning programs. The government announced in May that they will provide $10 million to independent schools to support improved Covid-19 hygiene measures. Early learning services are in dire need of similar support.”

One educator from South Australia told her union, “During Covid-19 our numbers went down and my employer reduced a lot of staff hours. Now that the numbers are going back up at my centre, we still have extra cleaning to do, but we don’t have enough staff. Staff hours were really cut back during the virus, and it affected a lot of people. Now that the children are coming back, they aren’t increasing the staff back to where it was before.

“I’ve got 15 two-year-olds between three educators, but we’ve still got all the extra cleaning to do. Last week we had more children than our staff numbers were meant to cover under our ratios. It’s not right.”

Sandy, an educator from Queensland says, “Not enough safety measures have been implemented at the centre where I work. This has caused stress for myself and the other educators because we are worried about our safety.

“We are REALLY short-staffed – and we’ve been told that we can’t hire anyone else. It’s not good for us and it’s not good for the children. We are barely scraping in under the ratios, instead of focusing on delivering quality early education and care. We don’t have the staff to pull off the floor to do the extra cleaning that we know we need to do during this time. More needs to be done.”

Another educator is very concerned that safety is not being addressed, “We have serious concerns about safety and hygiene, but the centre has refused to address them. We have asked for professional cleaners, but the centre won’t listen: they won’t even roster on extra educators to do the cleaning. We feel that our health and safety and the health and safety of the children in our care are not considered a priority.”

What is needed to ensure a Covid Safe Early Learning sector? To ensure that all early learning services are equipped to continue to manage the risks of Covid 19, a support package with funding for enhanced cleaning, and required training for staff is required, including the following:

  • Funding for services to engage professional cleaners to maintain daily cleaning regimes;
  • Requirement to demonstrate the existence of a trained health and safety representatives in accordance with state and federal health and safety legislation, to monitor practices and compliance with health guidelines and resolve disputes;
  • Allocation of funding to support the time needed for training health and safety representatives;
  • Requirement to demonstrate a Covid response policy in the case of an outbreak in the centre, and that all staff have been trained in the policy; and
  • Requirement to consult with staff on any changes to health and hygiene practices as advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee is updated.

*The national online survey of over 1100 early childhood educators was conducted by United Workers Union between 27th and 31st May 2020.


MEDIA RELEASE The United Workers Union says the Prime Minister must keep his promise to protect the essential service of early education.

With the release of the review into the Government’s policy today, the union for early childhood education and care (ECEC) is warning a premature end to the emergency ECEC funding could cost thousands of jobs and threaten the financial viability of early learning centres across Australia and threaten thousands of educators’ jobs.

Helen Gibbons, the director for early childhood education at United Workers Union says, “The Prime Minister declared that early learning is an essential service in our community. An essential service that parents and the community rely on. Urgent funding was injected into the sector to save it from imminent collapse. This funding made child care free for parents but now that emergency package is under threat.

“If the Prime Minister now makes a U-turn on emergency funding for early learning it will be painful and chaotic. He must keep his promise to children, families and educators.

“The early learning sector’s workforce nurtures our children at the most critical stage of life development. This isn’t something to be played with. Without a stable sector and workforce children miss out on important learning opportunities and parents miss out on accessing employment.

“If emergency support for early learning ends before the economy and the community bounces back enrolments will once again plummet and centres and staff will be left reeling. Young children, their families and educators need some security and predictability.

“The funding arrangements haven’t been perfect. There was significant confusion about how it would operate, alongside JobKeeper eligibility. The solution is not to now trash the scheme, but work with the sector to fix the issues and deliver a strong ECEC sector as Australian families get back to work. Increased enrolments will require an increase to the base funding.

“In the short term we need to adjust the funding but this is also an opportunity to examine if our structure and system of provision is serving our children and families well. The imminent collapse of the sector exposed deep flaws in how we provide such an essential service.”

Educators have been telling their union that they are already facing a widespread slashing of hours and have seen many colleagues stood down. Workforce stress is extensive. A topsy turvy funding arrangement with no predictability will only make matters worse.