Labor commit to “pay educators what you deserve”

At Labor’s National Conference Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has committed the Labor Party to develop a policy to improve wages for early childhood educators.

“We will pay early childhood educators what you deserve. That’s Labor’s promise,” Mr Shorten told the Labor National Conference on Sunday.

Mr Shorten has made a number of references to educator wages at press conferences over the last months. While a full policy proposal has not yet been provided, the comments at the Conference mark Labor’s strongest commitment in this area to date.

It is not yet clear how a Labor Government would implement this commitment. Award wages for educators are set by Fair Work Australia, who dismissed an educator pay equity case by unions in February.

However in announcements on Tuesday Labor also committed to reforming the Fair Work Commission to directly address pay equity for women, which would likely provide a way for educators to receive increases in the Award. The early childhood education and care sector is 97% female.

The commitment to address low educator wages will be Labor’s second attempt to do so, after their controversial Early Years Quality Fund from 2013. That funding was only to be made available to 40% of the sector. When the Coalition Government took office in 2013, the funding was redirected to professional development.

United Voice, the union for early childhood educators, has welcomed the commitment. “This is an enormous step for us, this is a great big step in our campaign. We need to hear details, we need to hear how they are going to go about it,” said United Voice National Assistant Secretary Helen Gibbons in an update posted to Facebook.

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