Hundreds of South Australian childcare workers are leaving their low-paid jobs each year, and one-quarter of Adelaide centres are operating without enough qualified staff.

But a historic wage claim by the SA LHMU Child Care Union could help the industry turn a corner.

The LHMU Child Care Union is hopeful that the South Australian Industrial Relations Commission will hear its childcare wage claim next month.

LHMU Child Care Union has won widespread community support for the campaign

The union has won widespread community support for their claim with the Adelaide Advertiser today telling readers they backed the union’s claim because It is important that those at the frontline – the childcare workers – not be left behind.

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The union warned that good, qualified, committed childcare workers were leaving the industry.

Mass exodus threatens viability of an important service for working Australians

We are seeing an extraordinary exodus of good, committed childcare workers out of our sector. Without this wage rise this can only get worse and worse,” LHMU Child Care Union organiser Liz Pierce said .

The whole viability of this important service for working Australians depends on the union winning this pay claim.

Child care workers voices now being heard

However Liz Pierce said at the same time more and more childcare workers are getting organised.

“Those who are committed to our industry know that we can only win if we get more people behind the union push. More members means we have a more powerful voice to ensure that our concerns are heard loud and clear,” Liz Pierce said.

Professional staff can earn less than $14 an hour, forcing many out of the industry in search of higher-paid work.

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Sector survives because of the sweat and commitment of women workers

Senior workers say the only reason the sector survives at all is because so many staff are dedicated to their jobs, and because daytime work suits the female workforce.

The LHMU Child Care Union is campaigning for increases ranging from $20 a week for unqualified staff to $150 for centre directors. In January, childcare workers in the ACT and Victoria won wage increases of up to $148 a week, to be phased in over 18 months.

“Childcare workers here shouldn’t get anything less than what their peers get interstate,” Ms Pierce said.

A quarter of SA childcare centres operating without qualified staff

Because of the ongoing staff shortage, one-quarter of centres are said to be operating with exemptions from legislative requirements on staff qualifications.

“There’s a staffing crisis in long day care and out of school hours care. It’s something that has to be addressed.

Eager to get decision before Howard shuts down independent IRC

We are eager to get the SA Commission to hear this case because the Federal Government wants to abolish this independent tribunal,” the LHMU’s Liz Pierce said.

We are not confident we will have an ability to have such industry wide cases heard by an independent body to determine appropriate job classifications and wage rates that will work across the industry.

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Individual employment agreements undermine the campaigning voice of childcare workers wanting to defend quality standards

The Howard government wants to force childcare workers onto secretive individual employment agreements, known as AWAs – which will undermine the voice of the childcare industry by creating a divide-and-conquer regime in our workplaces.

Individual child care workers in each and every different child care service across SA would not have the power to get important sector wide workplace issues heard, such as quality standards and the staffing crisis we now face, Liz Pierce said.