Parents will need to make alternative arrangements next Tuesday when an unprecedented number of childcare centres shut down. Picture: iStock
Parents will need to make alternative arrangements next Tuesday when an unprecedented number of childcare centres shut down. Picture: iStock

Parents brace for ‘unprecedented’ childcare strike

A NATIONWIDE childcare strike planned for next Tuesday is expected to throw the country into chaos as thousands of workers demand better pay.

The strike has been touted by early childhood workers' union United Voice as "Keep Your Children at Home Day".

While the organisation has not revealed exactly how many centres will be closed on March 27, the Daily Telegraph has reported it will affect an "unprecedented" number of them.

Families that will be affected by the strike have already been informed, with industry insiders claiming they have been given enough time to make alternative arrangements.

Some centres will be shut for the whole day, while others will only close certain rooms or shut down from lunchtime onwards.

Parents with children under five have been urged to keep them at home where possible to support the "big walk-off".

"If 90 per cent of our brains are formed in the first four years, why are our early childhood educators paid only half the average national wage?" the United Voice campaign reads.

"Early childhood educators deserve to be valued for the important work that they do.

"That's why they are stepping up their fight for fair pay and walking off the job on Tuesday, 27 March."

United Voice Queensland President Sharron Caddie said if a parent's childcare centre was involved, they would have been informed to keep their child at home, either for a full day or a lunchtime closure. 

"When educators walk off the job, it will be with the support of centre management, parents and the community," she said. 

"Many support parents will choose to join educators at rallies as they know the vital role educators play in their children's education." 

It will be the third early childhood strike in 12 months - and Tuesday's industrial action has been described by union boss Helen Gibbons as the "biggest day of action in history".

But Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has slammed the unions behind the industrial action, and said some centres already pay staff above the award.

"I have enormous respect for early learning and childcare workers and the work they do, but they're being used by their unions and given bad advice," he told the Daily Telegraph.

Australia's childcare workers are demanding a 30 per cent wage increase, after the federal government ignored an industry-set deadline to increase wages by February 1.

Workers with a certificate III are paid just $21.29 per hour, making them among the lowest-paid workers in the country, with a wage close to half the average wage of $40.62 per hour.

According to United Voice, nearly 97 per cent of childcare workers are female.

The industry has previously lost a Fair Work Commission test case which had fought for childcare workers to be paid similar salaries to workers in male-dominated fields such as manufacturing.

In September 2017, more than 3000 childcare workers went on strike.

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