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This Is Why Thousands Of Kids Are Staying Home From Preschool Today

Parents are supporting a strike by early childhood educators who want to earn more than $21 an hour.

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At Cambridge Road Play and Learn Centre, a worker and children.
United Voice

At Cambridge Road Play and Learn Centre, a worker and children.

The biggest early education strike in Australian history is happening right now.

More than 6,500 childcare educators around Australia are walking off the job to demand better pay in their industry where many earn as little as $21 per hour, despite holding qualifications.

Teresa Swain is the assistant director of Cambridge Road Play and Learn Centre in Hobart and one of the centre's 18 workers who walked off the job today.

Solidarity with the early educators walking out today. Earning less than 50% of the average wage for a job that is bloody hard & important is not fair. #bigstepsNOW

"I want the government to listen and value early childhood educators so we see a pay increase and we can support workers so they stay and don't go off after a couple of years because they get burnt out," Swain told BuzzFeed News.

A 2016 Queensland University of Technology survey found that one out of every five early childcare educators planned to find a new job in the next 12 months.

"There is this whole stigma that early childhood educators are just babysitters," Swain said.

Messages of support from parents at Cambridge Road Play and Learn Centre, Hobart.
Cambridge Road Play and Learn Centre/Supplied

Messages of support from parents at Cambridge Road Play and Learn Centre, Hobart.

Every employee at Swain's centre is female which reflects the bigger picture — childcare is known as a "pink collar" sector as it is estimated 95% of employees in the industry are female.

This strike is the third in 12 months in the sector and follows the Fair Work Commission’s dismissal, last month, of a five-year fight for a 35% pay rise.

The commission found no evidence childcare educators were paid less than men performing work of comparable value.

Parents around Australia are supporting the walk-off by taking their kids to work with them.

I support tomorrow’s walk off by Early Educators in their fight for #equalpay so I’ll be keeping my little one home #BigSteps @UnitedVoiceECEC @UnitedVoiceTas #politas #auspol @CPSUTas @unionsaustralia @TasUnions https://t.co/CbfnBAi8u3

#KeepYourChildrenHome means bringing my 5 yo to work. He’s busy “working” on colouring and watching dinosaurs. Solidarity to @UnitedVoiceTas comrades who are striking for #equalpay today. We’ll see you at Hobart’s rally, 3.45pm on Parliament Lawns #politas #auspol #bigwalkoff https://t.co/gZQdY8j9fv

We’re supporting the #bigstepsNOW strike today by keeping our little one at home. His educators deserve more than $20/hr they are qualified professionals who love, care for and teach my baby @UnitedVoiceECEC #equalpay #auspol https://t.co/chcMJ1lCjk

Parents have been informed if their centre will be closing, and many are supporting the national action by keeping under-fives at home so that their children’s educators can walk.

"Today we have 60 children with the centre and only four weren't able to be collected early because of work commitments, but we have the support of their parents," Swain said.

Politicians were also participating in Keep Your Children At Home Day to show support for childcare workers.

Today I have brought Percy to work to support the @UnitedVoiceECEC #BigStepsNOW campaign to keep your children at home day. Our early educators should be valued. #ECEC @UnitedVoiceOz https://t.co/wf3QYBEl4g

Keep Your Children at Home Day is a really important opportunity for all of us to show our support for early childhood educators. It’s not right #ECEC workers earn less than half the national wage. I send my support to early educators, @UnitedVoiceOz @UnitedVoiceECEC #bigstepsNOW https://t.co/N11tMiIwwN

Workers in every state and territory are striking.

Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Gina Rushton at gina.rushton@buzzfeed.com.

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