Revelations today that one of Australia’s largest for-profit early learning facilities, G8 Education, underpaid staff over six years demonstrates the urgent need for reform of the early learning system, including working conditions for educators, according to the Thrive by Five campaign.
G8 has self-reported the underpayment to the Fair Work Ombudsman and has announced it is working on a remediation program that could cost it between $50 million and $80 million. G8 has apologised to staff and aims to settle all underpayments by July 31 next year.
Thrive by Five CEO and former South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said a high-quality early learning system must respect and value early childhood educators.
“Early learning educators already feature amongst our lowest paid workers. To underpay them is scandalous,” Mr Weatherill said.
Mr Weatherill said the G8 episode was further evidence of a broken system.
“As a nation, we must insist upon a system that prioritises the development of our children,” he said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed three things. First, our early learning system is precarious. Second, we are so reliant on our early learning educators to provide this essential service. Third, it is evident that we do not value our educators enough.
“We should respect early years educators and provide a fair wage and secure working conditions. Only in these circumstances can we attract and retain staff in whom we trust for the development of our children.
“It’s critical that as we build momentum and political will for changes to the early childhood education system, that educators who can deliver quality early learning are supported and remain at the heart of the system.
“We need a better early learning system for children, parents, educators and the Australian economy, especially as we try to recover from the COVID crisis. Early learning needs to be a priority for everyone.”