The union representing childcare workers has warned the Gillard government not to jeopardise quality in any deal it strikes with childcare centres to freeze fees.
Government minister Craig Emerson fed speculation about a deal yesterday telling reporters to “be assured this government is aware of the cost of childcare in contributing to cost of living pressures, and we have taken measures to ease those pressures - this is something to which we are very strongly committed”.
The government is reportedly considering an accord along the lines of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme that would directly subsidise childcare centres in exchange for guaranteed fees. Until now the government has paid money to parents to subsidise fees rather than funded the childcare centres themselves.
In Chicago attending a summit on the future of Afghanistan Ms Gillard refused to elaborate on the scheme saying “others back in Australia” were better positioned to talk about Labor’s plans than her.
United Voice, the union representing carers, says while it supports the idea of a freeze on fees in return for funding the deal would sell parents short it if didn’t also ensure that childcare educators were properly paid.
“At the moment an educator with a Certificate 3 qualification gets $18.06 per hour"... assistant national secretary Sue Lines said. “With a further diploma the educator gets $21 per hour. In other industries professional wages start at $26 per hour.”
“We are seeing around 160 educators leave the sector every week - they can’t afford to stay, they want to be able to buy homes and set up families of their own.”
Ms Lines called on the government to model its childcare deal on the aged care deal unveiled in the budget and its . It will fund wages directly as means of lifting quality.
“An aged care worker with a Certificate 3 is paid is exactly the same as a childcare educator with a Certificate 3 – $18.06 an hour. It it is good enough for the Commonwealth to lift one set of wages in order to lift quality it is good enough for it to lit another,” she said.
“Parents want both affordability and quality. They don't want to go into a centre and find the person teaching their child has left. They don't want to see new faces every day.”
News Limited papers report that another option being considered by the government is to better index the Child Care Benefit paid to low income parents.
In today's Age
. Want to get women into work? Look after their children. Doh
. Sunday dollars+sense: The dollar cost of having a child
. Honey, we can't afford the kids