By CELA on 5 Jun, 2023

A better paid early education and care workforce could be just around the corner, under a historic pay negotiation plan of unity and cooperation launched today. 

Early education and care peak bodies will embark on a collaborative process with unions to demonstrate how increased workforce professionalism can deliver the best opportunities for Australia’s children and their parents. 

Under new federal industrial relation laws taking effect today, peak bodies Community Child Care Association (CCC) and Community Early Learning Australia (CELA) will represent community-run and small providers in the first national application for multi-employer bargaining in the early education and care sector. 

Today's press conference at Woden Early Childhood Centre (ACT)

CELA CEO Michele Carnegie spoke to the media with the Hon Tony Burke MP (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) and Nazish Mushtaq (United Workers Union, Centre Director at Northside Early Learning) at the Woden Early Childhood Centre, a CELA member since 2005. 

“For a whole lot of industries, today’s the day we press go on getting wages moving and that’s particularly true for those feminised industries like early childhood education,” said Tony Burke MP.  

“Last year after the Jobs and Skills Summit, the Government received a really loud message, which was that the whole bargaining system was working for some, but there was a whole lot of people being left behind and in particular, feminised industries and funded industries like early childhood education were being left behind.

"We were told if we went down a pathway of making multi‑employer bargaining easier, that might make a difference, and I’m so happy to see in the news today that the first industry that’s going to be using the new laws is early childhood education.” 

Pictured at the press conference at Woden: Tony Burke MP, CELA CEO Michele Carnegie, Nazish Mushtaq of UWU, David Smith MP. 

“CELA is proud to represent community-run and small providers of early education and care in the first application under the new supported bargaining laws being lodged today,” said CELA CEO Michele Carnegie, who emphasised that these new laws provide a real opportunity to address low wages and conditions in the education and care sector.  

“Every day, children and families are missing out on quality early education and care due to workforce shortages in the sector. Low pay, high staff turnover and uneven access to training mean services struggle to find quality staff. This process is our best opportunity to improve wages and to solve staffing shortages while limiting the cost being passed on to parents.” 

The application to the Fair Work Commission today will kick start the process towards a professional and better remunerated workforce that can deliver even better results for our youngest Australians and their families. 

“These new laws will allow the sector to come together to address low wages and conditions and ensure that early education and care is seen as a rewarding and valued profession,” said Ms Carnegie.

Nothing is more urgent, that’s why CELA and our members are showing leadership by coming to the table under these new laws.

Many community services and small providers have been locked out of enterprise bargaining because of the cost and complexity of doing it independently. In Victoria, we’ve seen how small early education and care services can improve wages and conditions through multi-employer bargaining. With 80 per cent of providers operating just one service, these laws will open up that benefit many more services across the country. 

Ms Carnegie said the potential of the multi-employer bargaining process is reflected by the collaboration across unions, employer groups and Government.  

Minister Burke is looking forward to the next steps in the bargaining process:  

“There will be a point later in the year when Government gets brought to the table and Government is going to operate in completely good faith with the laws that we design. We want to get wages moving, particularly in those feminised sectors because what it means is this: it means people who are struggling with their bills get a chance to get ahead of the award. It means an industry that’s had trouble finding workers or trouble retaining workers can be more competitive as an industry... 

“We’ve been waiting for today for a long time: 6 June, today is the day we press go on getting wages moving in industries like this. It’s been too long waiting. It was a big fight to get that through last year but now we finally begin the process that will make a difference in the pay packets for early childhood educators.” 

CELA member Woden Early Childhood Centre, the location of this morning's media event, is an Exceeding rated, community-based not for profit care and education service. Director Reesha Stefek has been at the centre for over 30 years, and puts a high value on providing a quality service with suitably remunerated educators and teachers who are supported to engage in professional development to increase capability and professionalism. 

When long standing staff move from the area or go on maternity leave, Reesha and her team are finding it incredibly challenging to successfully recruit. They are one of many services who would benefit from successful negotiations which involve government funding of higher wages for teachers and educators in long day care services. 

“It was important to share this moment with a long-standing CELA member that embodies our values and appreciates the outcomes we are striving for,” said CELA CEO Michele Carnegie. 


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About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.



Jenny Hind
Posted on 7 Jun, 2023
This is so wonderful for our sector and hard working educators. Great work CELA, thank you!
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