The early years profession is currently experiencing a crisis and the only cure for this lies in the development and adoption of agreed pay scales and administration funds for all those contracted to deliver early years schemes on behalf of the government. These must be tied to increased government investment that is ring-fenced for this purpose.
Early Years educators must be recognized for the crucial work they do. They are the carers and educators of our youngest citizens and future generations.
They need to be treated with the respect they deserve and that starts with fair pay and working conditions.
Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Early Years, Kathleen Funchion TD is, Rapporteur for a committee report for the Children and Youth Affairs Committee on this very issue which is due to be completed and hopefully passed by all parties before the end of the Dáil term.
I and my Sinn Fein colleagues here in the Mayo, Cllrs. Gerry Murray, Thérese Ruane and Teresa Whelan will ensure that the voices of childcare workers in the County are heard.
We need to ensure that the needs of the early years workforce are central to all policy development and investment. This government and previous governments have relied on the good nature of the childcare sector to deliver quality childcare.
I personally know many providers who are struggling to stay open and under enormous financial stress. The fact that the sector is made up mainly of women is no coincidence.
In fact I think this is one of the main reasons for the continued exploitation of workers including providers.”
Most workers and many providers are on the minimum or below minimum wage and are forced to sign onto social welfare over the summer months due to the nature of their 38 week contracts.
Those who are self employed are of course not even for eligible for social welfare support. There is no job security and no stable career prospects.
It is unreasonable to expect a person who has studied and paid for a degree in early years education to be faced with such poor prospects upon completion.
If we expect a certain standard of quality in care for our children then we must pay those working in the sector accordingly.
Collective action is now the only option for the Early Years Sector. I commend SiPTU for organising the Big Start Campaign.
It is now down to workers and providers across the sector to join a Union and stand together with parents to fight for increased government investment.