Leaving the house these days is anything but easy for mother-of-three Kirsty Rutherford. She has three daughters - aged four, two and a baby who’s still breastfeeding.
The last thing on earth she wanted to do was juggle her kids into the car, around naps and feeds, to head out into a wet Sydney day to march in the rain.
And yet that’s exactly what she did, in support of the child educators who work at her children’s day care.
Along with childcare centres around Australia, Kirsty’s daughters’ centre went on strike at 3:20PM. This represents the time that women effectively begin working for free because of the persistent gender imbalance when it comes to pay, according to United Voice, the union behind the walk-out.
“I’m standing in solidarity with the educators at my daughters’ centre because they keep our family ticking over, as others do with families across Australia,” Kirsty told marie claire.
“Without them an entire level of workers would not be able to go to work. Without their presence, the economy would not be what it is. Parents simply would not be able to work.”
Childcare workers are paid an average of $20 per hour – half the national average wage, despite having professional qualifications.
“We pay bankers superbly to look after our money and yet children are our most precious resource and look at how we reward the people who care for them.”
“It makes no sense,” Kirsty says. “If you look across society we pay people in relation to the responsibility of their jobs – doctors, lawyers. Yet these are the people who look after our children, nurture them, educate them, and we pay them an absolute pittance.”
Children’s educators from across Australia report that they are forced to take second, or even third jobs to live. Others leave the profession altogether. “They love the job but they have to survive. They have to pay bills,” Kirsty says.
Kirsty and representatives from United Voice want Prime Minsiter Malcolm Turnbull to fund equal pay for childcare workers in this year’s budget.
“Low pay in this sector is directly related to the fact that 97% of educators are female, making it one of the most feminised workforces in the country,” Helen Gibbons, Assistant National Secretary of United Voice said.
“They ready to do whatever it takes to win equal pay. In 2017 paying women less than men is not on.”
“Educators appreciate the strong support they are getting from parents and early childhood providers for the walk offs.”
“It’s time the Federal Government valued the work of early educators, by funding equal pay in this years’ budget.”
To the parents who may have had to leave work or otherwise have their schedules disrupted today, Kirsty has one message. “I want people’s schedules to be disrupted so they really stop and recognize the value of these educators,” she says. “This is their one chance to be heard. They’ve asked nicely and it hasn’t worked.
Let’s see what the world looks like without them for a few hours.”