Kilkenny Big Start Activists along with organiser Lenka Halouzkova met with Sinn Fein TD and Spokeswoman for Children and Youth Affairs Kathleen Funchion in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle
SIPTU members have voiced their deep dissatisfaction with the current funding model for the Early Years Sector, and the issues of poverty pay, no provision for sick pay and pension and the high cost for parents.
Kilkenny Big Start Activists along with Organiser Lenka Halouzkova met with Sinn Fein TD and Spokeswoman for Children and Youth Affairs Kathleen Funchion in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle. The group, which is seeking better conditions for early year educators asked Deputy Funchion and Sinn Fein support SIPTU’s “ New Deal for Early Years”, which demands €150 million to be allocated to address pay and childcare costs in the 2022 Budget.
“Low Pay is driving qualified committed early years teachers out of the sector, the level of staff turnover means that quality education and care is being compromised," said activist Sarah Taylor.
“Our sector stood up during the pandemic, and were back to work allowing parents to continue to work and serve our society throughout lockdown. It’s time to acknowledge our contribution by ensuring respect for our profession, and that means pay that reflects our experience and qualifications. We expect pay negotiations under the Joint Labour Committee will address our issues, but funding must be there to ensure it can.”
Deputy Funchion remarked that 'for far too long early years educators have been taken for granted by this State'.
"The SIPTU members I’ve met do some of the most important work in society and cannot be overlooked in the Budget 2022. I and my party Sinn Fein are more than willing to support their fight for Professional Pay and Conditions. These ladies are in the vanguard of the fight for better pay and conditions, and all early years teachers should get organised and join the campaign.”
The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children has also warned that if pay and conditions for childcare and early years educators is not prioritised in this year’s budget, the sector will haemorrhage qualified staff.
“I am calling on the Minister to take the dire warnings on staffing levels, retention and recruitment seriously and to match it with serious investment.
“Ireland continues to lag behind its closest neighbours in Europe when it comes to investment in childcare, a recent UNICEF childcare investment ranking put Ireland at 36 out of 41 countries.
“It begs the question, why do we keep keeping it so wrong when it is obvious to everyone how to alleviate stress on the sector?
“To see prices drop, workers retained, and for services to remain open, we must substantially ramp up investment.
“We also saw the launch of the findings from the most recent Early Years Staffing Survey Report, from the New Deal for Early Years Coalition.
“It found that 61% of managers think their service may have to reduce capacity due to staff shortages, however, shockingly one third of all services believe they may have to close due to staff shortages.
“In last year’s budget, I called for an investment of approximately €500 million for the sector, to deliver accessible, affordable childcare for parents and secure and properly paid careers for early years professionals.
“I also called for a sustainability and capacity fund for providers, these measures would reduce creche fees for parents by two thirds starting with a reduction of one third in the first year.
“Government ministers and TDs continue to pay lip service to parents, service providers and those working in the sector. Yet when it comes to voting for investment in the sector, they toe the party line.
“Calls by the sector are dire, and they must be taken on board by the Minister," she added.
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