Council run childcare in Hobsons Bay (12 February 2014)

Last November the council made an unfortunate decision while I was overseas.  It decided in a meeting closed to the public and without any community consultation to outsource the management of the two council-run childcare centres in Hobsons Bay (Altona Meadows and Altona North).  Council management also failed to consult with staff.  Incredibly, this motion was supported by all councillors present.

I have opposed this decision and the process from the outset and am very pleased I successfully moved a resolution in the council last night to abandon that process and start again, complete with consultation with staff, affected families and other stakeholders.

I am very grateful to the families, staff and union organisers that attended the council meeting last night, and to Cr Luba Grigorovitch who has supported my moves to reverse the council decision since early December.

Here is some of what I had to say in the council chambers last night:

“This motion is put forward to the council in the interests of supporting open dialogue with the community we represent and being accountable to them. It is also intended to provide proper, open, consultative dialogue with our invaluable staff. It is only fair that we adhere to the principles of natural justice and democracy and give people affected by a potential decision about childcare the opportunity to be heard in relation to the importance of childcare and why services are better under a council-run system.

I think it’s important the council acknowledge and understand why workers – by far predominantly women – are undervalued and why there is a 20% disparity between the Council award and what childcare workers are paid by private companies. Rather than supporting a system that devalues women, I would like to think our council would support them and advocate for equality. It’s timely that we are considering an Advocacy Policy in the council tonight because we all realize that advocacy is an important role for the council.

As a council we must abide by the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act. This, to me, includes the right of equal remuneration for work of equal value. A right that is embodied in various international instruments, and which many Australian women do not enjoy – even in 2014. On average women earn less than men for work of equal or comparable value. This inequity has adverse social and economic consequences.

This motion is about families, mothers, single parents, staff at the childcare centres (most are women), and the values and principles of the council. As a council we uphold values of equality and respect. Our values are not about money (although we are, of course, a financially sustainable and responsible council).

On that basis, and in the interest of openness, transparency, accountability and democracy, I am happy to move this motion and ask all councillors for their support.”