Today the United Workers Union and the Australian Education Union jointly called on the Federal Government and National Cabinet to take five critical steps to protect the young children who attend early education and the educators who care for them.
- Early educators to be nationally defined and recognised as frontline essential workers.
- Early educators should have priority access to PCR testing if required. Rapid Antigen Tests to be free and accessible for all educators, with clear and consistent testing, tracking and isolating protocols and procedures to manage staff shortages.
- The definition of close contacts must include exposure at work as well as home. Educators need to be financially supported to isolate.
- Centres that need to close for periods because of staff shortages to have access to financial support.
- As frontline essential workers, early educators to have priority access to vaccine booster appointments.
Quotes attributable to Helen Gibbons, United Workers Union Early Education Director:
“As the omicron variant sweeps through Australia early education is incredibly vulnerable.
“Little children under five cannot yet be vaccinated. As a community we need to do everything we can to protect them and the people that surround them, that’s why we’re asking the Federal Government and National Cabinet to take urgent action on these five critical support measures.
“Educators are being frequently exposed to infection but have little support to get tested or to isolate. The sector relies heavily on casual workers, but these educators face financial insecurity and enormous pressure to return to work, potentially putting themselves and the community at risk.
“Rules about exposure and isolation are inconsistently applied across the country and often centre directors are having to make decisions that should be clearly guided by public health.
“Centres face losing government funding if they close because they can’t find enough staff. The pressure on centres to stay open is enormous and places children at risk.
“This is a further reminder that the current early education system is not fit for purpose and needs urgent reform. Early educators are doing their part. For nearly two years they have kept centres open and kept children safe. They need help.
“Without a clear and consistent national plan for early education and to keep centres open, educators, families and businesses already struggling with a national workforce crisis will suffer.”
The United Workers Union is the union for Early Childhood Education and Care.
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