Childcare workers’ initial pay rise under Labor two years away


Meanwhile, aged-care providers have demanded to know why their workers have been left out of Labor’s plan to address low wages in female-dominated industries.

Council on the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates said it was “beyond disappointing” that neither major party had made a significant commitment to building the aged-care workforce or improving wages.

He called on Mr Shorten to commit to making aged care “the next cab off the rank” in Labor’s wage subsidy plan, arguing the sector had “direct parallels” to childcare as it received the bulk of its funding from government subsidies and employed mostly women, on similarly low wages.

An analysis by the National Aged Care Alliance to be released on Saturday reveals Australia will need almost 100,000 extra workers in the next four years just to keep up with the ageing population, with the biggest shortfall in Victoria, where 29,000 workers are needed.

Mr Shorten has said he will wait until after the aged-care royal commission to decide whether to give workers in the sector a taxpayer-funded wage boost.

Mr Yates said it would be impossible for aged-care providers to fund large pay increases won by unions under Labor’s promised new workplace laws, which would make it easier for low-paid workers in “feminised” industries to win pay equity cases in the Fair Work Commission.

Childcare workers lost a pay equity case last year under the current rules, but the Australian Services Union won community workers pay rises of up to 45 per cent in a groundbreaking case in 2012.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Labor’s plan to use taxpayers’ money to fund wages in the private sector would set “a very bad precedent”.

Education Minister Dan Tehan said he would like to see “sustainable increases in pay for our early childhood workers” delivered “in a way that won’t lead to distortions and will not send fees through the roof”.

Both major parties have refused to confirm whether they would continue Labor’s childcare wage subsidy after 2029.

A withdrawal of the funding would leave childcare employers with a sudden $2 billion increase to their wage costs.

There is also confusion over whether employers would have to cover increased superannuation costs, which Coalition modelling suggests could add up to more than $1 billion if Labor increases the super contribution from 9.5 to 12 per cent.

Labor has promised that 100,000 workers will get an average pay rise of $11,300, explaining that it will be available only to those with a Certificate I, II or III qualification or university degree and working in long day care settings.

A spokeswoman said the exact amount each worker received would be negotiated with the sector “to account for differences in qualifications”, ensuring there would be no increase to fees.

Early childhood educators working in preschools and kinders, along with workers employed in non-childcare roles such as chefs and administration staff, are not covered by the policy.

with Fergus Hunter

Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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