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in brief: childcare centres asked to pay back pay rises

The Abbott government is asking childcare providers to ‘do the right thing’ by paying back $62.5 million dollars, given to them to improve wages in the underpaid industry. The opposition, who signed the contracts, are slamming the Liberal government for breaking a promise.

The money was to be spent in over 1100 childcare centres to boost the wages of employees. Those with a certificate III were looking at an extra $3 on top of their $19 an hour payment. Early childcare workers were expected to earn an extra $6 per hour.

But now they have to pay it all back. Labor’s childcare spokeswoman Kate Ellis described the move as a ‘cruel’ and ‘shambolic’ thing to do before Christmas.

When asked if she believed it was cruel, Assistant Minister for Education, Sussan Ley said ‘of course I feel for workers who might have expected a pay rise, but who led them to expect that pay rise?’

Ley admitted that she has no legal way of forcing childcare centres to pay back the money, but that she hopes they will ‘do the right thing’.

Ms Ley said that the coalition would honour the $62.5 million if the childcare centres who had already signed their contracts ‘insisted on keeping the money.’ But she hoped that they would consider giving the money back to the government so that it could be evenly distributed.

Labor had set aside $300 million dollars to boost the wages of over 30,000 childcare workers. This would increase the minimum wage for a university-educated teacher from $42,000 a year to $53,000. This rise was designed to give certainty to the sector, which has suffered from high staff turnover and funding shortfalls.

But the Liberal government are now putting the whole $300 million into personal development and training for childcare workers, despite Tony Abbott’s promise in question time last week, that the coalition would ‘absolutely honour all of our commitments, and contracts which have been entered into will be honoured.’


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