The Independent Education Union of Australia has asked the Fair Work Commission to award substantial pay rises to early childhood teachers.
Hearings in the landmark Equal Remuneration claim start on July 26.
Dubbo early childhood teacher Alan Davies said paying pre-school teachers more money is common sense.
“Early childhood teachers and primary school teachers have all gone through the same universities and done the same work to get where we are, we’re all equally trained, but we’re not equally paid,” he said.
“Early childhood teacher's work as hard as our primary school colleagues but we get paid about $20,000 a year less.
“If we were equally paid, more people would stay in early childhood education, we train teachers because they have to have the nought to five years of age training, but as soon as they have that qualification they move up to primary school, and we lose them because they are paid more.
“This pay rise can’t come soon enough.”
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has called on the Fair Work Commission to grant the union’s claim.
“The differences in pay between primary school teachers and early childhood teachers are stark,” McManus said.
“Despite having the same degrees as any other teacher and having the same HELP debts, first-year preschool teachers earn $16,000 less than primary teachers. After nine years the difference can be up to $30,000 per annum.”
McManus said the case was first lodged by the Independent Education Union of Australia (IEUA) in 2013.
IEUA organiser for NSW\ACT Lyn Caton said the union is asking the Fair Work Commission to compare pay rates for the female-dominated profession of early childhood teaching with male primary teachers and male engineers.
“This case will test whether the equal remuneration principle under the Fair Work Act can help early childhood teachers meet pay parity with their male counterparts,” Mrs Caton said.
“Research consistently shows that degree qualified early childhood teachers were crucial for early years development, but the pay disparity was making it hard to attract teachers to the profession, especially in daycare centres.
“We know the funding is not there for employers to meet the expectations of what we would consider fair pay for teachers in early childhood centres.
“We think the pay disparity is due to society perception that early childhood education is just babysitting, that we’re just looking after children.
“I can tell you that we are not babysitters, because if a child gets a proper foundation at pre-school it helps them enormously in primary school, yet the pay does not reflect that.”
Long day care teachers often work 38 hours a week and get four weeks annual leave, not school holidays.