SA childcare workers go on strike today, shutting down centres


At least 100 childcare centres across South Australia are set to shut down or partially close today – impacting about 8000 families – as staff walk off the job in protest over pay and conditions.

The United Workers Union told InDaily 100 centres had registered in SA to take part in the national stop work action, with early childhood educators converging on Parliament House to rally about the “crisis” affecting the sector and call for urgent reforms.

The union expects other centres which haven’t registered to also take part and families are being asked to keep their children home and join in the rally if they can to show support.

Parents should check with their centre to see if they will be affected, with centres closing across the state in areas including Adelaide, Glenelg, Payneham, Belair, Brighton, Parkside, Golden Grove, Campbelltown, Magill, Brompton, Noarlunga, Modbury, Hillbank, Seaford, Mawson Lakes, Oakbank, Blackwood and Whyalla.

“We’re expecting this to be a big, loud, colourful rally with hundreds of people attending,” the union’s early education director Helen Gibbons said.

She said some centres would close completely, others would close for part of the day or shut some rooms and some would keep a “skeleton crew” on for essential workers and other families in need.

“It’s different for every service – every centre’s worked with their parents about what’s possible,” she said.

Gibbons expected the action would impact about 8000 families in South Australia.

“Educators have been talking to families for weeks now in preparation for them shutting down and making sure that they’ve been able to find alternative arrangements,” she said.

“Part of that conversation has been talking to them about why it’s so important and the parents have been incredibly supportive.”

Gibbons acknowledged it was a “big ask” for families, especially after so much disruption during the pandemic, but she said “parents have been very generous and supportive in agreeing to keep their children home where they can”.

Early childhood educators are calling for urgent reforms of the sector, including better pay, conditions and recognition as well as an overhaul of the private system, with claims some providers are putting profits above children.

Gibbons said educators were paid as little as $24 an hour, with some receiving 30 per cent less pay than school teachers even if they have the same qualification.

“Educators are voting with their feet – they’re leaving,” she said.

“We’ve got an enormous crisis across the country with a shortage of workers.”

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Gibbons said educators also want “appropriate respect and recognition for the important work that they do”.

“Early education should be seen as education and it should be more closely aligned with the education system in the country,” she said.

“It’s ridiculous that we value the education of a five and six-year-old more highly than we do that of a one and two-year-old. One and two-year-old care and education is just as important.”

Educators also want a “system that puts children before profit”.

“What they’re calling for is reform of the sector – they’re saying the sector is not working for them, it’s not working for little children and it’s not working for families,” Gibbons said.

The main rally in SA will start at Parliament House at 3pm, with educators and supporters marching to Elder Park.

Some regional centres also planning smaller gatherings.

Across the country, hundreds of centres will close as part of the national action, with thousands of educators taking part, impacting an estimated 70,000 families.

“The new Federal Government must urgently take concrete steps to address the workforce crisis in early education and reform the sector,” Gibbons said.

Federal Early Childhood Education Minister Anne Aly said in a statement: “We know that supporting and growing the early childhood education and care workforce is critical to delivering our landmark cheaper child care reforms – ensuring more children can access important foundation years education and boosting workforce participation, particularly for women.”

“I will be in Parliament (today) and have already met with early childhood educators and carers at Parliament House, in their workplaces and at roundtables,” she said.

“I look forward to continuing these discussions to gain a deeper understanding of the issues faced in the sector and developing solutions to help us recruit, train and retain a high-quality early childhood education and care workforce.”

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