After nearly six years the IEU claim for university-qualified early childhood teachers is finally before the Fair Work Commission.
Evidence from IEU witnesses started on Tuesday, 11 June with the case to run for nearly four weeks.
The case will benefit teachers in preschools and long day care centres in the Newcastle region.
The Union has two key bases of the claim for higher pay rates.
The first is seeking higher rates of pay for teachers in early childhood services, because they are paid less than male employees who have similar skills, qualifications and responsibility. Early childhood teachers are overwhelmingly female.
The second is that the Teachers Modern Award rates have been set too low and do not reflect the proper value of any teacher, including teacher in schools.
Teachers in schools are paid more than the rates in the Modern Award because they are covered by enterprise agreements.
In comparison, a significant number of early childhood teachers, especially in long day care centres, are paid close to the Modern Award rates.
The Modern Award rates for experienced teachers are about $30,000 per annum less than the prevailing enterprise agreement rates, which go up to around $100,000.
It is likely to directly affect teachers in profit making centres and the six St Nicholas Early Education Centres conducted by the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese.
The St Nicholas centres pay teachers up to $30,000 less than teachers in schools conducted by the same employer, even though they have the same university training and perform similar duties.
“The disparity must be rectified. It is entirely unreasonable that teachers separated by a school fence, in some instances, can be paid so differently,” IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Assistant Secretary Mark Northam said.
The case will finish in August, with a decision not expected before the end of the year.