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.

Educators catching coronavirus must spur urgent hygiene and safety guidelines for the whole ECEC sector


Educators catching coronavirus must spur urgent hygiene and safety guidelines for the whole ECEC sector

United Workers Union, the early childhood union, is renewing calls for centres that are failing to deliver the highest standards of hygiene and safety during the coronavirus crisis to be shut down.

The call comes following alarming news for the sector, with the union being told that two educators in Sydney have been admitted to ICU for coronavirus.

The union is demanding that all early education facilities across Australia follow the union’s 6 point plan for hygiene and safety – if they cannot implement this plan they should not be operating. Educators and families must feel safe during this crisis.

The union’s plan includes temperature checks for children upon arrival, increased personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, and adequate time for increased cleaning and hygiene implementation. Because early childhood educators cannot practice physical distancing with very young children strong measures must be taken.

The union’s calls are in line with the updated advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), whereby the committee has recommended risk mitigation measures in ECEC, including the exclusion of staff, children and visitors with fevers or respiratory illness.

AHPPC’s and the union’s advice must now be supported with strict guidance from the Federal and state and territory governments.

Helen Gibbons, director of early childhood education at United Workers Union says, “We are deeply concerned at the news that early childhood educators are receiving treatment for coronavirus in ICU.

“Although it is still unclear how the educators were exposed to the virus, this news shows the very real risks in early childhood settings.

“Temperature checks must be mandatory and anyone with a fever should be excluded from centres. Because early childhood educators cannot practice physical distancing with very young children strong measures must be taken.

“Action must be implemented across the sector now. My clear advice to every educator is, if your centre will not work with you to implement the safety plan and as a result you feel you are at risk you should not be working.

“The Federal Government and state and territory health departments must also commit to this plan. This is the wake-up call. It is not business as usual. There is too much at stake.

“Educators and families across Australia must have confidence that early education is as safe as possible for everyone during the current crisis.”


United Workers Union plan for increased hygiene and safety in ECEC:

  • Pre-entry Screening: Every child must have their temperature taken by an educator in the foyer of the centre before being admitted, every single day they access the centre. The child must have a temperature reading no higher than 37.5 degrees. If it is higher than that the child will be refused access to the centre and the parent will be told to take the child home. The educator conducting the pre-entry screening must be covered in appropriate PPE (that includes a duck mask as well as gloves).
  • Adequate PPE: Before a centre is opened up each morning to receive children it must be satisfied that it has enough PPE for the next 48 hour period as a minimum. This includes antibacterial soap; disposable gloves;; thermometers; sterilising equipment; cleaning detergent and disinfectant; cleaning mops and buckets; antibacterial floor cleaner; toilet paper and nappies. If the centre does not have enough PPE it should not open and receive any children until such time as it does.
  • Adequate cleaning: High traffic areas of the centre must be comprehensively cleaned every 2 hours. Door knobs, hand rails, coded door entries, exit buttons etc. Every toy and every surface must be comprehensively cleaned 2 times per day. At the end of each day, after the last child leaves, the entire centre, including all objects and surfaces must be comprehensively cleaned.
  • Adequate staffing: Additional staff must be rostered to be available to do the cleaning. Educators cannot be responsible for doing deep cleaning and care and educate the children in their room at the same time.
  • Hygiene: Educators and children must have hands washed on entry to the centre, before and after consuming food and drink, after going to the bathroom, after cleaning children’s faces, before and after playing with toys, AND on the hour, every hour.
  • Staggered times: Children’s starting and finishing times must be staggered to enable social distancing and transitional meal times must be observed.



Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]

Free early education and care must preserve jobs



Free early education and care must preserve jobs

The United Workers Union, the union for early education, welcomes today’s announcement of free access to early education and care for Australian families, but says more needs to be done to ensure jobs in the sector are preserved. Today’s announcement did not directly address how the Government plans to preserve the sector so it is still there when Australia is able to get back to work.

We are also concerned at the continued failure of the Federal Government to provide further guidance on health and safety for the early education sector during the coronavirus crisis. Last week the union announced a 6 point plan for hygiene and safety including mandatory temperature checks, but the continued Government silence on these issues is worrying.

Helen Gibbons, United Workers Union Early Education and Care Director says, “Yes, this announcement is welcome, but there are still many details to be provided to workers and their centres. Today Prime Minister Scott Morrison has belatedly recognised the crucial role that early childhood educators play in our communities and our economy. Across the country, educators are stepping up and supporting their community through this crisis. Without the care and education that educators provide to over one million Australian families, our economy could not function.

“Today’s announcement will be a huge relief to many families who are struggling to make ends meet, many with reduced hours and income. Those families can now be confident that they can access appropriate care and education for their young children. It is an important step towards making sure services are available for communities into the future.

“We encourage all parents who have left Centres to re-enrol their children to take advantage of the new arrangements. Centres need their families to re-enrol to access the new Government funding, to keep their doors open.”

The Prime Minister has advised that working parents providing essential services would gain access to free services first, but more clarification is needed for who would be included and excluded from this program.

During this crisis, many Centres will be relying on the Job Keeper program to pay educators’ wages and retain jobs through a period of lower enrolments.

However, not all Centres are eligible for the Job Keeper program, meaning thousands of educators may miss out.

Ms Gibbons says, “Right now Centres need to prove a significant downturn in revenue before being able to apply for Job Keeper. Many centres cannot afford to wait that long, and this money is not due to be available until May. They need support NOW.

“By the time a small Centre has lost enough revenue to be eligible for the program, it might already be too late to reverse the financial effects. This puts jobs and the community’s ability to work and support the economy at risk.

“As an essential service, early childhood centres should not have to prove a critical loss before being able to take steps to retain their workforce.

“The United Workers Union is calling for the Federal Government to make all early childhood education and care providers, as an essential service, automatically eligible for the Job Keeper program.

“We cannot afford to lose even one Centre to this pandemic. We need to take steps to make sure that centres can stay open through this crisis and beyond – to retain staff and keep the ECEC sector viable long term.

“That means making the Job Keeper program available to all providers of early education and care now.”



Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]