Save Childcare: Make it free, under community and worker control!

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Commentators have pondered how the world’s biggest childcare company, ABC

Learning Centres, could collapse so spectacularly. They should be asking: “Why is

childcare treated like a business?” Last August, when ABC Learning went bust, the

Rudd government handed the bankruptcy receiver $22 million to avoid a catastrophic

shutdown of the childcare sector. In December, it gave another $34 million to keep most

centres running until March while the creditors sort out their future. Fifty-five centres

have closed and 240 more are still threatened. Spending money on childcare is not the

problem. The problem is that the Rudd government still supports childcare for profit.

Radical Women has a proud history campaigning for childcare
and demanding that governments treat this as an essential service.
Photo by Alison Thorne.

Meanwhile, childcare workers are treated like dirt. Paid below the poverty line and

stressed by unspeakable conditions, they are walking away at a time when many more are

needed to meet demand. The turnover of staff is 35% nationwide — 60% in some states.

Workers at ABC Learning now have to wait and see whether they’ll have a job or who

their new employer will be. Those thrown out of work do not know if they’ll be paid their


No more privatisation. From child and aged care, to cooking, cleaning and looking after

the sick, the social needs of generations become the private burden of individuals — and

the basis of private gain for the likes of “Fast Eddy” Groves, the CEO of ABC Learning.

Using the global credit squeeze as an excuse, the Rudd government is telling working

women to wait even longer for paid maternity leave. This is rubbish — big business

is still making money. Paid parental leave could be instituted tomorrow by making

employers deduct a little from their fat profits.

The two unions covering childcare workers, the Australian Services Union (ASU) and the

Liquor, Miscellaneous and Hospitality Workers Union (LHMU) have led the outpouring

of rage over ABC Learning. The ASU is calling for childcare to be handed over to local

government, while the LHMU is lobbying the creditor banks and federal government

to keep centres open, but only until March. While the ASU’s position is fine as far as

it goes, the LHMU is completely wrong-headed. The point is that childcare is vital to

Australian workers and must not be subject to the investment decisions of unaccountable

banks and boards of directors. It plays straight into the hands of the Rudd government,

which is telling everyone to be patient while the receivers carve up ABC and sell it off.

Childcare for profit is obscene! Bailing out and selling up are not solutions. Nor is

handing control to underfunded local governments, which have been contracting out their

services to the lowest tender. This inevitably means even more exploitation of workers

and the further lowering of service standards.

Let’s change the boundaries. What about campaigning for childcare that is:

  • free and provided 24/7
  • staffed by fully-trained unionised workers, paid the same as other education


  • fully-funded and resourced by government funds, which includes corporate taxes
  • controlled by the community and workers.

Childcare would then belong to the people. A coalition of mothers, fathers, childcare

workers, unionists, community activists, students — with full union movement backing

— could achieve this. If you agree, get in touch with Radical Women on 03-9388-0062


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