27 Mar 2018

Australian childcare centres close as workers strike over pay

3:35 pm on 27 March 2018

Hundreds of childcare centres across Australia are closed today because staff have walked off the job in protest at low wages.

Painting and tricycle at early childhood centre

Photo: RNZ Insight/John Gerritsen

They are calling on the federal government to subsidise a 30 percent pay rise for the country's 108,000 childcare workers.

Their union, United Voice, says about 320 centres have been closed by the action, and 30,000 families are affected.

The protest is the first since childcare workers lost a five-year battle at the Fair Work Commission for a pay rise.

"This has enormous support," the union's assistant national secretary Helen Gibbons said.

"From Darwin to Tasmania, from the east coast to the west coast, we are going to see early educators walking out of their centres and joining various rallies and actions across the country, and they'll be joined by parent groups and the wider community," she said.

"We know the Government massively underinvests in this sector. If we are going to achieve professional pay for early educators, either parent fees go up or the government funding needs to improve, and no-one wants to see parent fees go up.

"The Government needs to step in and take seriously their responsibility to fund this sector properly."

In a statement, federal Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said he expected "all early learning and childcare centres to value their employees and pay them as much as they can afford".

"Many already do pay above the award," he said.

Senator Birmingham insisted "the role of Government is not to run those centres but to help families access affordable care".

Today's action is the third rally agitating for a change in the past 12 months.