More than 300 childcare centres across Australia have shut their doors or will close early as thousands of workers walked off the job demanding higher pay.
Unions warned of “chaos” around the country on Tuesday, with parents urged to make alternative arrangements for their children.
Around 6500 workers at 317 centres were participating in rolling closures, while many more were expected to close rooms – impacting around 30,000 parents.
United Voice acknowledged the strike would have a “ripple effect” across the community, but said it had enormous support.
“From Darwin to Tasmania, from the east coast to the west coast, we are going to see early educators walking out of their centres and joining various rallies and actions across the country, and they’ll be joined by parent groups and the wider community,” assistant national secretary Helen Gibbons told the ABC.
The union wants the federal government to subsidise a 30 to 35 per cent pay rise for workers, who start on an award rate of just over $21 an hour.
The action follows the Fair Work Commission’s decision in February to reject a wage increase for childcare workers.
Goodstart Early Learning, the country’s largest provider, says staff from around 100 of its 650 centres will take part in Tuesday’s action, but none will close.
It said it had rearranged rosters to make sure no families were impacted.
“We are supporting educators who wish to take part in campaign activities, provided that we are still meeting the care needs of our families,” chief executive Julia Davison said in a statement.
Nearly 100 centres in Queensland alone are participating, with a further 61 in South Australia and 30 in Tasmania.
It’s unclear how many parents, especially women, could be forced to take the day off work because of the action, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.
“Anyone who’s ever been a parent with a child in childcare would know that making alternative arrangements can be complicated and difficult, and quite often the option is to take the day off,” spokeswoman Jenny Lambert told AAP.
Federal Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said he expected early learning and childcare centres to pay workers “as much as they can afford”.
“The role of government is not to run those centres but to help families access affordable care,” he said in a statement.