Here’s what parents need to know if their children are going to be affected by an early education sector ‘shutdown’ tomorrow


Childcare centres across the country will be taking part by in what the United Workers Union (UWU) is calling a “shutdown” of the early education sector tomorrow. 

Let’s unpack what it means for parents. 

Is it a strike?

The UWU is calling it a shut down, not a strike.

The union is asking parents not to take their children into their childcare centres on Wednesday. 

There will be a series of rallies across the country on Wednesday afternoon, with most beginning at 3pm. 

How many childcare centres will be affected?

The UWU says hundreds of centres across the country will be participating. 

It estimates up to 30,000 families could be affected. 

How do I know if my centre will be impacted?

“Parents should talk to their early educators to see if the action is impacting their centre and room,” UWU early education director Helen Gibbons said.

What do I do if my centre is part of the shut down?

“There are lots of different arrangements in place,” Ms Gibbons said.

“The best way to know what is happening at your service is to contact them.”

Why is it on Wednesday?

Because September 7 is Early Childhood Educators Day. 

Two female children choose from a tin of coloured textas
Early educaiton workers plan to hold rallies across the country on Wednesday. (ABC North Queensland: Nathalie Fernbach)

What are workers’ demands?

The UWU has called for federal government reform of the early education sector, laying out three key demands. Here’s what it says on the union’s website:

  1. 1.Give us a reason to stay and pay us what we are worth
  2. 2.Value early learning as part of the education system, just as important as schools
  3. 3.Put children before profit

But the union has not given a specific figure for how much it wants wages to rise.

The federal government has proposed an increase of childcare subsidies for more families from July.

Under the proposed changes, families with a combined income of up to $80,000 would get a 90 per cent childcare subsidy for their first child.

Families with a combined income of up to $530,000 would be eligible for some support. 

The federal government has also promised a Productivity Commission review of the sector and an ACCC-designed price regulation mechanism aimed to reduce out-of-pocket costs.

Early education consultant Lisa Bryant said workers want “a bit of respect for the work that they do”.

“There’s such a misconception that what these people do is unskilled labour, but it’s not, it’s highly skilled,” she said.

“You can’t get a job in childcare without a qualification … and yet they’re just not paid in commensurate for that.

“If someone can walk out of a childcare centre and make more money stacking shelves in Woolworths, we’ve got a problem.”

What are childcare worker award wages?

The way workers are paid is set out by the Fair Work Ombudsman. 

There are a few different rules for different workers — with apprentices paid less — but here’s a basic breakdown of the minimum rates as part of the Children’s Services Award:


Minimum weekly rate

Minimum hourly rate

Support worker 

Lowest level: $830.30

Highest level: $940.90

Lowest level: $21.85

Highest level: $24.76

Children’s Services Employee

Lowest level: $830.30

Highest level: $1,369.70

Lowest level: $21.85

Highest level: $36.04

Children’s Services Employee – Director 

Lowest level: $1,336.50

Highest level: $1,501.80

Lowest level: $35.17

Highest level: $39.52

By comparison, the General Retail Industry Award dictates that employees on the lowest level are paid a minimum wage of $888.50 per week at an hourly rate of $23.38.

Retail employees on the highest level of the award are paid a minimum wage of $1,086 per week at an hourly rate of $28.58.

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