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*Claire Casey. 

A Clare based Early Years Educator believes that the sector is on the path to addressing low pay for the first time, following a recent government announcement.

The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD (GP) has written to the Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD (FG) recommending the establishment of a Joint Labour Committee (JLC) for the early learning and care (ELC) and school-age childcare (SAC) sector.

“The sector is currently in freefall. This will be a mechanism by which money can be channelled directly to employees. Covid has meant that the government have recognised how essential our service is. The sector is in crisis as increased funding has went into the hands of employers and not employees. Unfortunately, time isn’t on our side. Last year, the government stated their commitment to this as part of the 2021 budget,” SIPTU member Claire Casey admonished.

If established, a JLC would provide an opportunity for SIPTU and CSI/IBEC to engage in negotiations on an Employment Regulation Order which could ultimately establish binding rates of pay and conditions for the sector. The recommendation follows an 8-week pre-JLC consultation process initiated by the Minister in partnership with SIPTU and CSI/IBEC, and independently chaired by Dr Kevin Duffy, former Chair of the Labour Court.

Following the conclusion of the pre-JLC consultation process, Dr Duffy submitted to the Minister a report which recommends the establishment of a JLC.

Claire commends the work of SIPTU, who have worked tirelessly to transform the sector since 2016. In 2015, 1,000 people marched the streets of Dublin, in a bid to create awareness around low pay and working conditions. Five years later, off the back of SIPTU’s Big Start Campaign, 30,000 took to the streets. The Early Years Education sector contains over 4,000 employers and 23,000 employees, nationally. Of this, 6,000 are registered members of SIPTU.

She stated: “It’s the start of a process. We need people to join the union as there are so many not joining. They are not helping themselves or the sector. SIPTU will be representing their needs at the JLC. We need to empower SIPTU through increased membership. Every sector’s most valuable asset is its workforce. I’m asking people not in the union to join. Collectively we are strong.”

Early Years Educators can join SIPTU through their website or by accessing the Big Start Campaign online.

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